We have Norm Kurtz to thank for the Whitefish Winter Carnival, the annual jubilee that snaps us out of our seasonal funk and reminds us of all the people and natural wonders that make our little ski town special.
Kurtz, a self-described ski bum from Washington state, would go on to become general manager of the Big Mountain in the 1970s. But after graduating from college in the ’50s he worked under resort founder Ed Schenck as a factotum — making beds, flipping burgers, writing humorous snow reports and assisting practically every department on the mountain.
One day, Kurtz and a group of friends — who called themselves the Dirty Dozen — scribbled plans for the first Winter Carnival on a cocktail napkin, inspired by a similar event Kurtz had attended in Minnesota.
Whitefish held its first carnival in 1960 and the event has happened every year since — a testament to Kurtz’s vision, promotional talent and passion for bringing the community together. This year’s theme is “Fire and Ice” in celebration of our local first responders.
There’s something fun for everyone in the carnival experience. Highlights include the Grand Parade, the Disco Party and the Penguin Plunge, in which revelers take a dip in the icy water of Whitefish Lake and raise money for Special Olympics Montana. And don’t forget the skijoring contest, in which daring skiers collect rings and land jumps while clutching a rope behind a galloping horse!
Kurtz also introduced the town to his own spin on the Norse legend of Ullr. The god of skiing and winter sports features prominently in Winter Carnival lore, along with life-size penguins and fearsome yetis determined to kidnap the snow queen … It’s quite the tale to tell!
To learn more and see the full lineup of Winter Carnival events, visit whitefishwintercarnival.com!