St. Patrick’s Day may seem like the unlikely holiday to go skiing in Montana, but for residents and visitors of Butte and other areas around west-central Montana, there is no better time to hit the slopes.
Butte, which is located in the west-central part of the state, at the intersection of I-90 and I-15, owes its history as a mining town to Irish pioneers. So it is no surprise that St. Patty’s day is a major celebration in this vintage western city, where immigrants were an integral part of the Montana’s mining industry. By the early 1900s, more than one quarter of Butte’s population were descended from Irish immigrants. That heritage continues today, and is celebrated up and down Highways 90 and 15, in the cities of Anaconda, Great Falls, Helena, Billings and Missoula.
St. Patty’s Day in some parts of Montana actually kicks off a bit early in 2011 in Billings, Missoula and Helena, which will have their traditional parade on Saturday, March 12, followed by various events. Billings’ parade leads the way at 11 a.m., followed by Missoula and Helena, which kick off at noonish.
Bozeman celebrates the Great Saint’s Day with a 10K Run to the Pub and Half Marathon. Missoula’s Sean Kelly Bar has a similar run – with a twist: a 5K “sprint” across the river and back. A cheering section is always appreciated.
The Great Divide Ski Area, located northeast of Butte off of Highway 15, hosts the Skiing/Running of the Leprechauns on March 11-13. And this is where the skiing part comes in: For $99, you can outfit your family with leprechaun suits and ski lift tickets so that you can participate in Great Divide’s Torchlight Ski in the evening. The package also gives you entry into the 3K race in Helena on Saturday, March 12, and a cookbook to take home. Would-be leprechauns will also have an opportunity to shred some slopes on Sunday March 13.
Funds raised from the Skiing/Running of the Leprechauns will go to a great Montana cause: to help support Eagle Mount, which provides therapeutic and recreational support for individuals with disabilities.
Celebrations also get underway in Butte, and nearby cities on March 17, with Butte’s parade at 11 a.m., Anaconda’s at 2 p.m., and Great Falls at 3:30 pm. For those around the Flathead Lake area, Kalispell will have a parade at 4 p.m. More information announced soon.
Butte is also the place to be for corn beef and cabbage (and assorted other festivities). Dinner events start March 16, as an celebratory wind up to the wilder festivities of March 17, and range from the Shillelagh Shindig (hosted by the Butte Democrats) at the McQueen Club, to dinner and a talk about the good old days in Ireland, hosted by the Glendive Shamrocks at Hungry Joe Hall. Both are open to the public.