Ice Fest: A Holiday You Should Be Celebrating

"The Ice Fest is my favorite holiday!" —Susan Ainsworth, Madison, New Hampshire

That pretty much sums it up. The Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest is the biggest of its kind in the East—and there are many. It has grown in recent years to include hundreds of people, dozens of all-day clinics, vendors and evening entertainment attracting some of the world’s best climbers.

But for the locals involved, it’s something more, still. It’s a chance to showcase our unique, hard-working community. It's full on, too. By Monday, the Ice Fest hangover has knocked down many hardmen and women. Luckily, the Sunday night Super Bowl provides a vegetative alternative to "one last party.”

The Ice Fest is designed to bring together the pros with climbers of all ability levels, even beyond the end of daytime clinics. The afternoon party at International Mountain Equipment, the event's host for over 20 years, brings everyone together in a small space for rosey-red-cheeked beer, soup from NEICe.com's Doug Millen and other varying sumptuous snacks provided by the American Alpine Club and others. Clinic participants return their gear, chat with the vendors and have a chance to share a drink with the famous gal who just taught their clinic. It's a warm, cozy two-beer-buzz that sets the tone of camaraderie for the evening events.

A full house for the nightly show is expected, maybe some fresh snowfall, a fire dancer and all in a wonderful venue, The Theater in the Woods. The layout brings everyone together again and puts the presenter right in the middle of it all. Familiar faces, warm handshakes, more beer and a psyched audience ready to catch some swag and be entertained are the norm.

It's a sea of colorful hats, puffy coats on chair backs and folks of all ability levels clutching raffle tickets for anything a climber could want.

Back to IME first thing in the morning, grab a coffee and doughnut, stuff some bread in a coat pocket, call it lunch, get the clinic together for the day and head back out.

In short: bitter cold days, warm apres food and drinks, evening party, bivy in town, repeat. By Sunday night I can barely speak.

The Ice Fest is one hell of a holiday.