Fire and Ice at 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. 2022 Lake Chelan Winterfest takes place January 14th through January 23rd and promises to be a party that brings light and levity to winter’s darkest days.
First the ice. There will be a total of 36 carved ice sculptures from Seattle’s Creative Ice all around Chelan and Manson and nearby wineries. Download a map and see them from the comfort of your car on a driving tour. Or linger longer and see live carving at noon on Jan. 15th in Chelan, and at 10 am Jan. 22nd in Manson. During past celebrations, ice dragons, ice selfie stations, even an ice couch showed up. This year’s theme is ‘Wine, Food and Fun’ so chilly creativity is guaranteed to reach new heights.
Speaking of heights, the celebration culminates in an icy tower of fire. A 10-foot-tall 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. He also says to keep an eye out for a giant ice fireplace the first weekend of Winterfest. No word on whether the ice fireplace will actually throw out heat, but it promises to be the ultimate ironic selfie.
Now, on to the fire. You can’t celebrate winter without providing heat, and there will be bonfires galore at 2022 Winterfest. A gigantic one will take place Saturday Jan. 15th at Chelans’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 15th, and then Manson on the 22nd.
Purchase a Winterfest button for 5 dollars 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, and ride on a train made from wine barrels. They can also 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.
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, and steps are being taken to keep the event healthy and safe – for example, the ice bar, a popular part of Winterfests past, will not be making an appearance this year.