Willowbilly Fun at the 2024 Willow Winter Carnival Games

You can’t make this stuff up. What do Alaskans do when the temperature drops to -31 Fahrenheit? They go outside to the 2024 Willow Winter Carnival, that’s what!

Homestead sawing at the 2024 Willow Winter Carnival Games
Yeah, it was that fun!

Don’t let that blue sky deceive you. The weather that day was cold even by Alaska standards when the 2024 Willow Winter Carnival Games took place just across the lake from our cabin. It was so cold that kids mushing events were cancelled because it was too cold for even rugged Arctic babies to play. But did the subzero temps stop the grown-ups? No way!

Extreme Winter Fun on Day 1 of the 2024 Willow Winter Carnival Games

The winter games have been taking place for decades, and I’m guessing there hasn’t been a time when the weather was so horrendous that it got called off. This year was no exception. We had beautiful, crisp clear days and calm weather, but the icy cold air was so painful that even the most rugged Alaskans showed up wearing their warmest gear.

Phyllis from Alaska Cut the Cord wields a pretty fierce chainsaw!
Phyllis wields a pretty fierce chainsaw.

It was a parade of proud beaver hats and warm wolf ruffs, coyote coats and triple insulated Michelin man coveralls, Bunny Boots galore, and layered face coverings so large that only a person’s eyes poked through. Our crazy musher friends loaned us their extra subzero gear so we wouldn’t freeze to death, so we had no excuse for going out into the freezing afternoon.

It was a Bunny Boots parade
It was a Bunny Boots parade

A Special Kind of Crazy

Day one of the Willow Winter Carnival Games is focused on human and dog powered sports. Day two is dedicated to the power sports snow machine enthusiasts. Guess which day was our favorite?

Both days are filled with old timey games like ax throwing, friendly snow sports competitions, ice cream eating contests, art auctions, dancing, the most spectacular fireworks display EVER, and a lot of great fun that brings the MatSu Valley out from the darkest days of winter. Even in the bitter cold, people were laughing and having a terrific time. If you’ve never seen this special kind of crazy, you need to. It’s a great lesson in resilience, and making the most of a less than hospitable climate.

Here’s just a sample of the fun, starting with the ladies 5-mile mushing race (with our friends Alison, Morgan, and TC), lumberjack and jill games, and the infamous Willow Outhouse Races:

A glimpse of the 2024 Willow Winter Carnival

The day before the games I seriously thought about staying in. Why on earth would anyone be crazy enough to go outside in temperatures like this? I wondered. Never in a million years did I think that I could actually have fun outside on yet another coldest day of my life. Winter in Alaska is just filled with surprises!

More 2024 Willow Winter Carnival Games Scenes

The fun YouTube duo of Phyllis and Adam from Alaska Cut the Cord did a fun video with way more detail that captures the games. Check it out!

3 thoughts on “Willowbilly Fun at the 2024 Willow Winter Carnival Games”

  1. Looks pretty crazy!

    I think I’ll leave the “Alaska Tough” winters to you two! Catching Sockeye on the Kenai in July is challenge enough.

    Although I will say our paddle to the glacier face north of the “Million Dollar Bridge” out or Cordova was pretty crazy!🤪


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