The 40-Year Tradition of SnowFest, Lake Tahoe's Mardi Gras

By Shanie Matthews | Monday, February 27, 2023

North Lake Tahoe SnowFest, a beloved annual event in the North Lake Tahoe area, has been entertaining visitors and locals for more than 40 years. But did you know that SnowFest almost didn't happen?

In this blog post, we'll take a look at the history of SnowFest and how the tradition has been kept alive for four decades.

The Beginning

The idea for SnowFest was first proposed in 1981 by Bob Everson, the marketing director at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort. He wanted to create a winter carnival in March to promote the incredible weather and skiing in Tahoe at a traditionally off-season time of year. The idea was well-received, and a meeting was held with local service organizations, ski resorts, merchants and lodging property owners to discuss the event.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Bob Everson was killed in a boating accident on Lake Tahoe on July 4, 1981. Despite this setback, the community decided to move forward with the event in honor of Everson, and SnowFest was born.

Snowfest is an important part of Tahoe history.

Over the years, SnowFest became a huge success, attracting tourists from across the United States and Canada. It was named one of the Top 100 Events in the United States by the American Business Association and among the Top 10 Events in California by the California Department of Tourism. SnowFest offered up to 100 events throughout the North Lake Tahoe area, including a torchlight parade, a laser show, fireworks, parades, pancake breakfasts, concerts, bar parties, ski races, dog and pet events, an ice-cream eating contest, a luau, a Mardi Gras party, ice carving, a polar bear swim and much more.

A Change of Hands

In 2000 SnowFest found itself deeply in debt due to management challenges. In 2003 a group of interested community members made the decision to keep the event alive under the new name of Snow Festival. This decision was met with great enthusiasm from the public. Snow Festival continued to thrive, offering many fundraising and educational events for area nonprofit organizations.

In 2008 Snow Festival was renamed SnowFest once again, and it is now a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Since its inception, SnowFest has raised more than $100,000 for local nonprofit and student organizations through its 10-day mountain Mardi Gras festival. It consists of an all-volunteer board of directors, and new events have been introduced to keep the tradition alive and fresh.

The infamous Polar Bear Swim.

SnowFest Today

Just as in years gone by, SnowFest is a smorgasbord of fun. This year's events are happening from February 27 to March 12. The kind of events to check out range in style and excitement as was the case in the past, with some of favorites still including the torchlight parade, a laser show and fireworks, parades, pancake breakfasts, the Mardi Gras party, ice carving and Polar Bear Swim. Other must-attend activities include the Tahoe City Dog Pull, Milk Jug Curling and the much-anticipated SnowFest Prom Night, a night of dancing for anyone who wants a re-do on this favored high school party.

Be sure to keep your eye out for one of the unique aspects of SnowFest, the SnowFest Miner Krewe. Legend has it that eons ago, Old Man Winter froze the lake year-round. While burrowing, Snow Slippery found the Miners in the gold mines of the Comstock near Virginia City. Snow Slippery brought the Miner Krewe to the lake, and the heat they brought with them from the mines returned the seasons to Lake Tahoe. The black "soot" on their faces represents the Miners who brought the seasons back to Lake Tahoe.

The Miner Krewe bringing legend to life.

SnowFest is more than just an annual event. It's a beloved tradition that brings together the community and visitors to celebrate the beauty and fun of winter in Lake Tahoe. Thanks to the dedication of volunteers and supporters, SnowFest has survived and thrived for more than 40 years. It will be fun to see what the future has in store for this beloved gathering, the new events and the surprises that SnowFest has in store for us in the years to come.

SnowFest activities are ongoing in Tahoe City and Kings Beach through March 12. For more information, visit

Be sure to check out our Daytime and Nightlife event sections to learn the details on all of the Snowfest activities as well as many other engaging gatherings happening in the basin.

Photos courtesy of SnowFest

About the Author Shanie Matthews
A longtime Lake Tahoe local, Shanie is a freelance writer, Vinyasa Flow yoga teacher and positivity warrior. A true lover of the the gorgeous Tahoe region, she connects with the serenity of the mountains via skiing, biking and backpacking. She also believes in the gift of yoga and its way of allowing one to become his or her true best self, a passion she shares with the world with her online yoga studio.
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