Fire and Ice at Lake Chelan Winterfest
By Anne Erickson | Photos courtesy of Visit Lake Chelan
There’s something about the combination of fire and ice that’s primal. Gathering around a fire on a snowy winter night keeps the dark at bay and warms both body and soul. Lake Chelan Winterfest has mastered that magical combo of fire and ice, welcoming the New Year with a two-weekend-long celebration that encompasses the town of Chelan, nearby Manson, and the many wineries along the shores of Lake Chelan. 2023 Lake Chelan Winterfest takes place January 13th through 22nd and promises to be a party that brings light and levity to winter’s darkest days.
First the ice. There will be over 20 carved ice sculptures from Seattle’s Creative Ice all around Chelan and Manson and nearby wineries. The feature ice sculpture this year will be a beautiful life-size sleigh, the perfect place to take a photo. Download a map and see them from the comfort of your car on a driving tour. Or linger longer and see live ice carving on Jan. 14th in Chelan, and on Jan. 21st in Manson. During past celebrations, ice dragons, ice selfie stations, even an ice couch showed up.
Speaking of heights, the celebration culminates in an icy tower of fire. An ice sculpture shaped like a chimney goes up in flames, a spectacle of fire and ice. “It’s spectacular, phenomenal to watch,” said Mike Steele, Executive Director of the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce.
Now, on to the fire. You can’t celebrate winter without providing heat, and there will be bonfires galore at 2023 Winterfest. A gigantic one will take place at 6pm on Saturday, Jan.14th at Chelan’s Don Morse Park. And it will be fueled by Christmas trees. It’s become a local tradition to drop Christmas trees off at the marina parking lot, where they will contribute to a blazing pyre during Winterfest. There’s a polar bear plunge during the bonfire for folks who want to embrace the whole fire and ice thing wholeheartedly. And then, more fire: Fireworks will light up the skies above Chelan on the 14th, and then Manson on the 21st.
Purchase a Winterfest button online or at the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce – it helps support all the fun and wearing one will unlock special deals and discounts at restaurants, retailers, breweries and wineries during Winterfest week. Also, Winterfest is a family-friendly celebration – littles can enjoy apple bin rides, participate in a Mitten Walk, and find ‘Tsilly’ (pronounced ‘Chilly’, of course), Lake Chelan’s sea monster and mascot –at local businesses to enter to win a grand prize.
Another local’s secret – Winterfest unofficially lasts all winter long in Chelan. There’s skiing and tubing at Echo Valley, a small ski hill with a rope tow, ski rentals and concessions. Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area has 25 miles of groomed trails for single track skiers, skate skiers and snow shoeing. Some local wineries even host sledding parties. A winter visit to Chelan is also a good way to beat summer crowds and high season summer prices. And Lake Chelan is stunning when it’s decorated with snow. “Wintertime in Lake Chelan is just spectacular,” said Steele.
The Winterfest Wine Walk includes a commemorative glass and 10 wine tokens. Shop and sip as you stroll through downtown Chelan, enjoying the region's newest wineries along with familiar favorites. The Winterfest Wine Walk will be held on Saturday, January 14th from 12-6pm. Wine Walk tickets are limited so get yours asap. Wine Walk tickets also include one Winterfest Button!
The ice bar is back for 2023 Winterfest!
We asked Steele, a lifelong Lake Chelan resident, if he had one local’s tip for making the most of Winterfest. “Bundle up!” he said. “Come prepared to be outside, since it’s an outdoor celebration.” All that chilly fresh air also makes Chelan Winterfest a great getaway in the era of COVID caution.