Breckenridge’s Ullr Fest moves from January to December
The annual invasion of Viking helmets across Breckenridge will show up a month earlier next winter, as the town’s Ullr Fest celebration has been moved from January to December.
Announced on Tuesday, the switch was made by the Breckenridge Tourism Office, with the Breckenridge Events Committee in agreement. However, there’s been talk among town leaders and tourism officials about moving the multi-day festival up in the calendar for months now, if not longer.
The festival’s shifting dates were precipitated, at least in part, by the anticipated loss of the Dew Tour in Breckenridge. The Dew Tour ran Dec. 13 to 16 last winter but isn’t expected to return for next season. However, those close to the decision say that isn’t the only reason.
“Moving Ullr Fest to December better aligns with roots of the event and ultimately what the Breckenridge community is looking for — earlier Ullr, earlier snow in the winter,” said Austyn Dineen, public relations director for the Breckenridge Tourism Office.
With that, the next rendition of the annual festival — and the prayers for a good winter that come with it — will be Dec. 11 to 15 as opposed to mid-January, when the festival has typically been scheduled in recent years.
Proclaimed as a kickoff to the busy winter ski season in Breckenridge, Ullr Fest has brought thousands upon thousands of visitors from across the country and world to town. Many of them are unmistakable, as they don the historically inaccurate but incredibly fun horned Viking helmets in an effort to appease Ullr, the Norse god of winter and patron saint of skiers, and thus ensure abundant snowfall for the season.
In previous discussions, town leaders and officials from the BTO have expressed a desire to better spread out the town’s wealth of wintertime events, especially with expectations that the Dew Tour will be leaving its mid-December slot open.
Officials from the BTO and Breckenridge Town Council have previously spoken about the Dew Tour like they’re sure it won’t be back next winter, but the BTO referred questions about the tour’s future in Breckenridge on Tuesday to Breckenridge Ski Resort.
“We’re excited about the decision to move Ullr Fest closer to the beginning of the resort’s winter season,” a resort spokeswoman said via email. “While the new Ullr Fest event dates overlap with the historic timing of Dew Tour, we are currently still in discussions with PepsiCo on plans for future event activations at Breck.”
Given that Ullr Fest serves as one of the town’s kickoffs to winter, bumping the festivities up a month might not be such a bad idea, regardless of what happens with the Dew Tour.
“Ullr Fest is Breckenridge’s wacky way of showing a little love to Ullr, all in the hopes that he will bring more snow,” said Lucy Kay, president and CEO of the Breckenridge Tourism Office, in a statement. “It only seems fitting, that the modern day Ullr Fest would align with the beginning of the winter season for snow-praising purposes.”
According to the BTO, Breckenridge has been honoring Ullr for over five decades with Trygve Berge and Sigurd Rockne — the pair that founded what would become Breckenridge Ski Resort — starting the festival in March 1963.
“Over the event’s 56-year run, Ullr Fest has occupied many different time periods, so it wasn’t married to January,” Dineen explained, adding that the BTO and Breckenridge Event’s Committee felt like January didn’t need “the extra animation” with such strong holiday tourism and another hugely popular event, the International Snow Sculpture Championships, filling out the end of the month.
While Ullr Fest has become synonymous with January’s happenings in Breckenridge, some of the people at local businesses that rely on winter tourism either weren’t in the know or were completely indifferent about the change.
Reached over the phone, a man working at a Breckenridge T-shirt shop said he hadn’t yet heard of the move and had no reaction. Another worker at a local hat store, which sells buckets of Viking helmets every year, said the same, though the Summit Chamber of Commerce applauded the decision.
“I do think shifting Ullr is a great idea,” said Judi LaPoint, executive director of the chamber.
Without any inside information about the town’s scheduling, LaPoint said that, with the anticipated loss of the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, December would be a great time to bring people into Breckenridge while town isn’t busy with other events.
LaPoint noted that Ullr Fest is a fun happening that “centers everything downtown.” While she’s not exactly sure how it all might affect local merchants, she’s guessing local restaurants see an uptick in business with the Ullr Fest traffic.
“I also think (the change in dates) will help to even out visitor traffic — which is important to many in our community,” LaPoint continued, saying there’s a fine line between bringing people to town for an event and getting them to support local merchants.
“When too much is going on, visitors can get frustrated,” she said.
The schedule for next winter’s Ullr Fest has not yet be released, but festival-goers have enjoyed a series of festival events over the years, including Breck’s Got Talent, a record-breaking attempt at the largest ski shot in the world, the Main Street parade, the Ullr Ice Plunge, a bonfire and more.
The worker at the hat store openly wondered what would become of the Ullr Fest bonfire, given that discarded Christmas trees collected after the holidays have fed the flames in the past. For the worker, he thought it would be “a bummer” trying to pay tribute to Ullr without such a blaze.
Well, he can rest assured that’s not gone under the BTO’s radar, as Dineen said the source of fuel for the annual Ullr Fest bonfire is still being determined for next season’s festival because, as she put it, “the Ullr Bonfire plays an essential role in paying homage to Ullr.”
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