February 2, 2013
Perhaps it’s the mind-fraying lack of sunlight that prompts so many small, northerly towns to stage outsize—and offbeat—winter festivals. Whitefish, Montana (pop: 6,357) is a prime example with its mile-long parade, lake plunge, and, most notably, the Black Star Barter (free, blackstarbeer.com). For the event, the Great Northern Brewing Company posits a deep philosophical question to locals and visitors alike: What would you do or trade for a year’s worth of beer? Past contestants have proffered an array of imaginative services—on-call deer butchering, chest waxing, line dancing lessons—and offerings, from airbrushed wolf drawings to a defunct Volkswagen Transporter. Even more entertaining? Watching it all with a brew—or two—in hand.
Stay: The Garden Wall Inn (from $155-$195; gardenwallinn.com) is within stumbling distance of Whitefish’s main drag. It has deep tubs for defrosting after skiing Whitefish Mountain Resort and serves an impressive two-course breakfast.