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Gliders, skiing…and a Frozen Dead Guy?Gliders, skiing…and a Frozen Dead Guy?

Nederland, ColoradoNederland, Colorado

Editor's note: For 2018, Frozen Dead Guy Days takes place Friday to Sunday, March 9 through 11.

Fly to Boulder, Colorado, to start your unique late-winter adventure. Fly a sailplane over the Rockies and then head to Nederland where you can ski at a little-known resort and party with the locals as they celebrate the real frozen dead guy in their midst.

  • Held in Nederland, Colorado, each year since 2002, Frozen Dead Guy Days celebrates Grandpa Bredo, whose body lies frozen on dry ice in a Tuff Shed above town. Among the many events are the Coffin Races. Teams in costume race with a coffin and ‘corpse’ in tow through a course full of obstacles, mud, snow, and other racers. What began as a local’s event has blossomed into a shindig that in 2016 attracted an estimated 22,000 revelers. Readers Digest called it one of the “Top Five Winter Festivals in the Country,” while readers of USA Today proclaimed it one of the “Top 10 Best Cultural Festivals.” Heck, it’s even been written up in the New York Times. Photo by Dave Meas, courtesy Amanda MacDonald.
  • The town of Nederland sits near the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains, 13.5 nautical miles west of Boulder Municipal Airport, shown here. There are no instrument approaches at Boulder, but Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, 9 nm southeast, has ILS, GPS, and VOR approaches. Both airports have rental cars. As you approach Boulder, be aware that westerly winds can cause severe turbulence on the lee side of the Rocky Mountains. The same winds that can present problems for pilots of powered aircraft provide excellent conditions for sailplanes, and Mile High Gliding offers glider rides and flight instruction out of Boulder. Photo courtesy Shahn Sederberg, CDOT Aeronautics.
  • Just 17 road miles west of Boulder, Nederland, Colorado, a quaint former mining town, sits at 8,228 feet. Fewer than 1,500 people live here year-round, yet the town has a beautiful lake and a ski resort. Photo courtesy Boulder Creek Lodge.
  • The parade of coffin racers, hearses, and other revelers is one of the highlights during Frozen Dead Guys Days. Photo by Sidni West.
  • Each coffin race team consists of seven members, one of whom is carried inside the coffin during the race. These guys will be in for a challenge when they race through the snow later in long dresses. Photo by Dave Meas, courtesy Amanda MacDonald.
  • More parade fun. No, Grandpa Bredo isn’t in there. Photo by Matt Beldyk.
  • In the Brain Freeze, contestants down frozen slushies to win prizes. The Fix-A-Frozen-Flat contest involves dunking your hands in ice water for one minute and then seeing how quickly you can fix a flat tire on a bike wheel. Photo by James DeWalt, courtesy Amanda MacDonald.
  • In the Costumed Polar Plunge, contestants jump into an icy tub. The best costume wins a season ski pass for the following year. Photo by James DeWalt, courtesy Amanda MacDonald.
  • In the Salmon Toss, the farthest flung fish wins the prize. The Frozen T-shirt contest is a race to don frozen and folded t-shirts, a challenging and uncomfortable endeavor. Photo by James DeWalt, courtesy Amanda MacDonald.
  • Test your poultry bowling skills in the Icy Turkey Bowling Contest…you’re welcome to BYOFF (bring your own frozen fowl). Photo by James DeWalt, courtesy Frozen Dead Guy Days.
  • It’s easy to see why this is called the Carousel of Happiness. Photo courtesy James DeWalt Photography.
  • Looking down the International Trail at the Eldora Ski Resort. The resort has terrain for all levels, including steep powder runs. Photo by Kamen G via Wikipedia.
  • If the thought of indulging in all the beer, cocktails, and other mind-altering consumables has you concerned about driving, a car isn’t mandatory. As parking in Nederland is limited, the festival has arranged shuttles from downtown Boulder. Alternatively, you can take the Route N RTD bus from Boulder to Nederland or use Uber or Lyft. Downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall area is easily walkable and has plenty of restaurants, shops, and hotels. The A-Lodge also provides free weekend shuttles to the ski area. Photo courtesy A-Lodge.
  • The Boulder Creek Lodge is right downtown, perched above Boulder Creek. Photo courtesy Boulder Creek Lodge.
  • Downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall area is filled with unique restaurants, shops, and lodging. The Flatirons rise in the distance. Photo courtesy Downtown Boulder.

The town of Nederland sits near the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains, 13.5 nautical miles west of Boulder Municipal Airport. Mile High Gliding offers glider rides and flight instruction out of Boulder. Take a scenic flight, introductory lesson, or go for your glider rating, which also gives you a fresh flight review.

Nederland, elevation 8,228 feet and population 1,500 or so, is normally a sleepy little town, until Frozen Dead Guy Days in early March. Thousands of revelers arrive via shuttle, bus, or car to dress wildly and celebrate with a hearse parade, coffin races, frozen turkey tosses, brain freezes, polar bear plunges, frozen T-shirt contests, music, craft beer, and booze—hemp vodka, anyone? Yes, marijuana is legal in Colorado now.

Fly a sailplane with Mile High Gliding. Here, pilot Al Ossorio flies a Grob 103cIII glider over the Flatirons, which rise just west of Boulder, Colorado. The Continental Divide can be seen in the background. Photo by Mike Higgins.

So, what is this festival, anyway? Scroll back to 1989, when a man by the name of Bredo Morstoel died in his native Norway. Packed in dry ice, his body was shipped to a cryonics facility in Oakland, California, where he remained for four years, surrounded by liquid nitrogen. In 1993 “Grandpa Bredo,” as he is known to locals, was moved to Colorado, home of his daughter Aud and grandson Trygve, who kept him on ice in a shed above Nederland. Soon Trygve was deported due to an expired visa, and his mother followed. Their departure and a law against storing frozen human or animal bodies in a home created a quandary. A local reporter took up the cause, and, along with most of the town’s residents, convinced the Nederland City Council to “grandfather” Grandpa Bredo in, so to speak. Ever since, a team of volunteers has repacked 1,600 pounds of dry ice around Grandpa Bredo monthly to maintain his minus-60-degree temperature.

Frozen Dead Guy Days traditionally kicks off with the “Royal Blue Ball,” a night of dancing, live music, costumes, and spirits. Other than at the ball, when people dress up in Day of the Dead-ish costumes, bring comfortable layers and mud or snow boots. Saturday’s schedule includes the events mentioned above (see captions for more details) plus ice carving, a salmon toss, a Rocky Mountain Oyster eating contest, fix-a-frozen-flat, live vultures, beard contest, snowy human foosball, pancake breakfasts, and three music tents—one with zany bacon treats, bourbon, and brews. To see a bit of the action, look on YouTube.

Earline is going to eat all these donuts if you don’t get down to Salto Coffee Works. Photo courtesy Salto Coffee Works.

While in town, don’t miss the Carousel of Happiness, which features 61 exquisite hand-carved wooden animals that took local resident Scott Harrison 26 years to carve. The restored 1910 Looff carousel turns to the music of a 1913 Wurlitzer band organNature’s Own is a shop filled with fossils, minerals, and gemstones. And Tadasana Mountain Yoga offers good classes without making you feel like you need $100 tights. Fuel up with delicious coffee, sandwiches, pastries, or artisan tacos at Salto Coffee Works. Alternatively, you can try local-fave New Moon Bakery and Café. Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse serves wood-fired pies, while Kathmandu puts the focus on authentic Nepalese and Indian cuisine.

Just three miles west of Nederland, Eldora Mountain Resort offers downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and Nordic skiing. Opened in 1962, it has eight chairlifts, two surface lifts, four terrain parks, and 53 runs on 680 acres with a 1,600-foot vertical drop and plenty of runs for all skill levels. The Nordic Center offers 41 kilometers of groomed trails perfect for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and skate skiing.

Where to stay? Boulder is warmer and boasts amenities such as upscale restaurants and shopping, while Nederland, 17 miles west, keeps you in the mountains and close to the action in this otherwise quaint town. Nederland’s Boulder Creek Lodge looks like a giant log cabin; amenities include gas fireplaces, continental breakfast, and hot tub access. The Sundance Lodge and Café, 1.7 miles south of downtown Nederland, offers 12 log-cabin rooms with mountain views. A few miles up the canyon west from Boulder is A-Lodge, short for Adventure Lodge. Catering to an outdoorsy crowd, they offer creekside accommodations and a weekend shuttle to the Eldora ski resort. So, point your airplane to Boulder, join the fun at one of the most unusual festivals in the United States, and raise a glass to Grandpa Bredo. As they say in Norway, “Skål!”

Kick up your heels at the Royal Blue Ball, held Friday night. Dress up for the costume contest and enjoy the live bands, cocktails, craft brews, gift shop, and swag. Photo by Dave Meas, courtesy Frozen Dead Guy Days.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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