Colorado’s Frozen Dead Guy Days Is Moving. Its New Home Has Ties to ‘The Shining.’
Frozen Dead Guy Days can entertain revelers with party games inspired by the horror film
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Where I live in Colorado’s Front Range, mid-March is known for enormous powder dumps, 100-mile-per-hour wind gusts, and coffin racing.
Coffin racing? Yeah, it’s like Tough Mudder meets a funeral procession, only with way more beer. The coffin race is the marquee event at Frozen Dead Guy Days, a two-day annual outdoor festival held in Nederland, Colorado, over St. Patrick’s Day Weekend that blends the macabre with goofy irreverence. Held annually since 2002, this unorthodox party honors a Norwegian man named Bredo Morstøl, who was cryogenically frozen after his death in 1989 and then stored in a Tuff Shed in Nederland for decades. “Grandpa,” as Morstøl is called, is still chilling out in Nederland inside his icy sarcophagus.
Sounds weird, right? It is. Frozen Dead Guy Days is what you’d get if Burning Man relocated to a tiny mountain town and handed out invitations at a local midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. People show up by the thousands, dress in creepy costumes, and party. There’s also a polar plunge, a bowling game played with frozen turkeys, and a parade of hearses.
Come, let us indulge in some fabulous photos from the revelry.
I first attended FDGD in 2015. What struck me was how the event’s je ne sais quoi seemed to perfectly fit that of its host community. Nederland feels like the hairy and unwashed cousin of the stuffy and upscale Colorado resort towns—a collection of quirky restaurants, marijuana dispensaries, and shops that sell crystals and bongs. I used to drive up there to buy bootleg tapes from Grateful Dead shows.
Well, seismic changes are on the horizon for FDGD: this week it was revealed that the festival is bidding adieu to Nederland and moving 40 miles north to the town of Estes Park. Apparently, FDGD had outgrown its welcome in Nederland. The 2022 edition attracted 25,000 visitors, and the crowds simply overwhelmed the town of 1,500 and trashed the local parade grounds. A report by NPR station KUNC said Nederland officials asked the festival owners to apply for a permit, pay higher fees, and hire more cops and contractors. Instead, they decided to sell the festival to an Estes Park-based owner.
According to a different report, Estes Park—yes, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park—is psyched to become the adopted hometown of Colorado’s weirdest outdoor party. Officials believe the town of 8,500 has the event space and outdoor infrastructure necessary to keep the party going for decades to come.
“We want to rescue this festival. We want to professionalize it,” said Kara Franker, the CEO of Visit Estes Park, the town’s tourism group.
When I first read this story, my reaction was negative—FDGD is way too weird for Estes Park and its souvenir shops. But there’s a wrinkle to this story that changed my mind: John Cullen, the guy who bought FDGD, is also the owner of Estes Park’s famed Stanley Hotel. For those unfamiliar with the historic—and some claim haunted—structure, it reportedly helped inspire Stephen King to write his 1977 novel The Shining, which was adapted for the 1980 film starring Jack Nicholson. Yep, the Stanley has its own ties to dead guys.
“We’re going to keep it Colorado… we’re going to keep it weird,” Cullen told local media.
Good to hear. As sad as I am to see Frozen Dead Guy Days leave Nederland, I’m hopeful that its move to Estes Park keeps the party rolling. And the festival’s newfound ties to one of the creepiest films from the 20th century feels like marketing gold. In my opinion, pairing FDGD with the legacy of The Shining can lead to a plethora of new fun and whimsical events, added to the existing lineup of coffin races, hearse parades, and costume parties. Here are a few ideas for Cullen and his operations team to consider:
Tricycle Races: Just like Danny rides his plastic child’s tricycle around the hotel, revelers can pilot a plastic big wheel from the 1980s around an obstacle course.
Typewriter Marathon: A handful of unlucky contestants spend the day typing out ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ for 12 hours straight. The most complete pages wins.
Blood Plunge: Kind of like a cold plunge, only with way more red food coloring.
Hexagon Carpet Costume Contest: I adore the Outlook Hotel’s creepy carpet, and I would love to see the creatively inclined use it for dresses, suits, and other outerwear.
Redrum: Buy a bunch of rum, dye it red.
1921 Formal Dance: This black tie event is set in the era of flappers and bootleggers. Be sure to stay for the group photo.
Here’s Johnny: Find a collection of old doors, set them up, and let contestants whack away at them with axes.
What Am I Thinking Challenge: Teams of two sit across from each other and try to read each others’ thoughts. The winner gets, you guessed it, The Shining.
Frozen Hedge Maze: Just don’t get lost.