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Okanogan County takes a different twist on snow traditions

Outhouses, poker, snowshoes, softball and skiing. To the average person these things seem unrelated, but to the folks in Okanogan County they share a commonality: local winter traditions.

Welcome to North Central Washington, where winter is just another excuse to have some extraordinary entertainment. Forget about sledding down a hill, making a snowman or ice skating; the folks of the Okanogan and Methow valleys amuse locals and visitors alike with the following unique and eccentric winter activities.

Craz-zee Daze

At the end of the skiing season the local Sitzmark Ski area hosts a silly and family-friendly skiing festival called Craz-zee Daze. This all-day event brings ski lovers of all ages from around the Okanogan Valley to the small slopes of Sitzmark, located in Havillah, about 16 miles northeast of Tonasket.

Craz-zee Daze has been a tradition since the mid-1960s, said Sandy Sutton, who works at the Sitzmark ski rental shop.

“It is one of the most exciting days of the season,” Sutton said.

The day is filled with fun events such as an obstacle course, a treasure hunt and an Easter egg hunt. Other events include backwards and blindfolded skiing races and a costume contest.

“Everyone is encouraged to dress in the wackiest costume, but also follow one rule: You have to be able to ski in the costume,” said Sutton. “One year we had a skier dress up like an outhouse.”

This year’s Craz-zee Daze will be held the first weekend of March.

Snow Poker

At the beginning of every new year a tradition takes place at the Bonaparte Lake Resort in the Okanogan National Forest. Snowmobiling fanatics gather to play a cold and refreshing game of poker for a good cause.

The tradition was started by the 206 Sno-Riders Snowmobile Club in 1983 and is still run by the club today, said Dennis Rawley, the club’s president.

Each snowmobiler starts out at the resort and is given a playing card. A course is set up around the lake and through the forest and then leads back to the resort. After each complete lap around the course, the rider is given another playing card.

The game is over when every rider has completed five laps. The riders then rendezvous back at the resort to compare their poker hands over refreshments. The rider with the best poker hand wins the tournament, Rawley said.

This year’s poker run will be Saturday, starting at 9 a.m.

“The entry fee is $5 per head and all proceeds go toward local academic scholarships and the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Rawley said.

Snowshoe Softball

In the Methow Valley, the town of Winthrop holds an annual snowshoe softball tournament in February.

“For the past three decades people have been playing snowshoe softball in Winthrop,” said Mike Clayton, Winthrop Chamber of Commerce event coordinator.

The tournament consists of eight local and out-of-town co-ed teams. The rules are similar to softball, but with slight modifications for the safety of the players.

The changes include no sliding feet first (because of the snowshoes), and each player is only given one ball and one strike instead of three of each, Clayton said.

This year the tournament will be Feb. 19-20 at the Winthrop baseball fields. For more information go to the chamber’s website, www.winthropwashington.com.

Outhouse Races

Still looking for something to do this winter? Head to Conconully for a different kind of winter tradition involving outhouses. Yes, you read right: outhouses.

Conconully Chamber of Commerce member Marilyn Church said the town has held an annual outhouse race down the center of Main Street for the past 27 years.

Each team of three members builds a race-worthy commode, which includes specific racing regulations.

“The outhouse must have three wooden walls, be mounted on non-metal skis, have a toilet seat and a roll of toilet paper – on a holder,” Church said.

As two team members push the outhouse, the third member sits on the throne as the rider.

Naming the racing privy is a big part of the fun, said Church. Last year’s champion outhouse was named the Butt Hut 2. Other names include the Honey Bucket, Squat and Push, and Fartacus, complete with team members dressed in togas.

Last year more than 200 people participated in the races, which drew a crowd of about 800, Church said.

“We are anticipating 800 to 1,000 spectators this year,” she added.

There are six divisions: men, women, teen, family, senior and bucket. In the senior division, the three team members’ ages must add up to at least 125 years. In the bucket race, the two pushers wear a 5-gallon bucket over their heads while the rider directs them through the course.

The overall winning team receives an official Conconully Outhouse Race T-shirt and a case of soda, Church said.

The outhouse races will be held Jan. 15 on Main Street in Conconully. A video of last year’s race is online at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=z-rXjhoOZ4Q.



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