Bar stool skiing during Montana’s Cabin Fever Days is crazy fun

Bar stool skiing during Montana’s Cabin Fever Days is crazy fun

Pull up to the tree edge by the Southfork Saloon in Martin City, Montana, just as the sun begins to set, and it’s a cinematic scene right out of an old western: shadows lit by a neon “Bar Open” sign, the saloon’s built-up facade from 1949 is framed by Teakettle Mountain in the distance. It is so serene that you hardly know that once a year it is the unofficial headquarters of Cabin Fever Days, the noisy annual blast powered by pent-up winter energy. In the center: the famous Barstool Ski Races, which are pretty much exactly what they sound like.

Imagine this: it’s 1978, the winter solstice in one of the toughest conditions of the season, around the time when people start to get nervous and come up with crazy ideas to pass the time (fun fact, the scenes that drive up to the hotel in Evil hotel– the ultimate example of seasonal snow-induced psychosis – was filmed right next door on Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park).

Snow is just another kind of water, really. | Photo courtesy of Visit Montana

At one point, two drunk guys in the saloon got an idea. “One of them was challenged to see if he could get down the main line in Martin City – on what we call Sugar Hill – on a ski bar stool,” said Ben Shafer of the Trapline Association, the organization that coordinates Cabin Fever Days. . (Sugar Hill may or may not be named after its previous occupation as Martin City’s red-light district.)

The only rule for the challenge, the story goes, was that you should cross the finish line in the drinking position – a rule that still applies today to the traditional bar stool skiing. So one of the guys screwed some skis onto a bar stool and pushed off down the steep, steep 750-foot hill. “He managed it most of the way,” Shafer says. “And next year it sounded like, ‘Okay, let’s see who’s the fastest.’ And it kind of took off from there.”

Today, the stool-on-ski run has grown into a three-day Cabin Fever Days blowout, with Barstool skiing as the core. This year, it returns after a Covid-19 break that runs from the 11th-13th. February. The entrance fee is $ 3 or $ 5 per person. barely, all for the benefit of local charities like the Martin City Volunteer Fire Department and the Canyon Kids Christmas Fund. Last festival, they raised $ 11,000.

This guy knows what’s going on. | Photo courtesy of Visit Montana

In the early days of the festival, there were events such as deer and mouse racing, which were apparently shut down for many reasons, not least for all sanitary reasons. Today, the only animals are humans – about 5,000 of them come from all over the world, and twice the population of Martin City comes out in temperatures that can dive well below zero. Foodtrucks help keep attendees warm, including a local sausage retailer serving bison and elk links. Glacier Distilling, a sponsor, offers a special Cabin Fever brandy.

A free shuttle takes you to all six festival venues for live music and roast pork; events such as Rochambeau and wrestling tournaments; egg and shellfish; beer pong; and Chicken Shit Bingo. “Imagine a big cage with numbers on the floor and a chicken inside,” Shafer says. “I think they probably feed them a lot that day.”

There is a poker race where you pick up a playing card from each bar and at the end of the festival create the best possible poker hand, and a Mountain Man competition with ax throws and other survival skills in competition, plus lots of goatskin.

And then there are the antics of snowshoe softball. “You have to try to put and run the bases in snowshoes,” Schaefer says. “For years, there was a barrel on second base if you were to get that far, but our insurance company knocked it out a little bit a few years ago. It’s BYOB now.”

Hope, of course, that the fur hat covers a helmet. | Photo courtesy of Visit Montana

The first bar stool ventured into four different official races, each with a starting fee of $ 20. Three are competitive: controllable, non-controllable and open class, with two racers competing in each heat, tournament style. Steerable and non-steerable races both use traditional sky chairs on skis, while for the open class, everything is on skis, often held for something simple enough to speed up while racing. “It’s usually something in a reclined position where you can have a handle on both sides so you can tilt your skis to steer with – they tend to be the fastest designs,” says Shafer. “A ten-foot-long steel Budweiser bottle won a few times.”

The fourth race is show class where everything goes and the winners are voted on by the audience. Here you will see the creativity emerge: outhouses, the guys in recliners watching TV, a complete band performing while standing on mounted pallets – with pyrotechnics! And obscene grandmothers. “We had a little grandmother on the toilet, with a pair of her panties, she sold for charity,” Shafer says. (Yes, it was a real grandmother. We clarified.)

A man on a mission. | Photo courtesy of Visit Montana

A man on a mission. | Photo courtesy of Visit Montana

There was a contestant from Canada dressed as Evel Knievel who raised a thousand dollars to donate to the charity pool, and another favorite from closer to home. “Cabin Fever Days are quite popular with actual mountaineers,” says Shafer. “We had a guy who ran every year, a kind of legend in the area with a leather and fur suit and a big beard. He made a copy of the Glacier Park Jammers (the red vehicles that transport guests in Glacier National Park) and packed it’s full of children. “

Should you wish to participate, Shafer recommends attending the race meeting, which is held approximately one month in advance, to learn the ropes, contact other racers and to get in good contact with the veterans.

He also recommends bringing protection. “Four or five years ago, we started bringing in a professional care machine, and [races] go significantly faster now, ”says Schafer. “As we began to care for the hill, many more guys began wearing helmets.”

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s senior travel writer. She prefers feces that do not move.

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