Whitefish crowns carnival prime minister, duchess

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  • STEPHANIE SKINNER

  • 1

    JEFF RAPER

  • STEPHANIE SKINNER

  • 1

    JEFF RAPER

The Whitefish Winter Carnival is off and running in Whitefish, where the first round of carnival royalty was crowned at the Merry Maker Saturday night at the Whitefish Moose Lodge.

Jeff Raper was named Prime Minister for this year’s 59th annual carnival. Stephanie Skinner is the new Duchess of Lark.

Raper has been active in the local real estate industry for the past 20 years and is currently one of the managing partners of National Parks Realty.

He was born in 1963 in Bend, Oregon, and moved to Whitefish with his family in 1977 after his parents purchased the Mount View Motel. It consisted of seven cabins and Whitefish’s only indoor swimming pool.

A 1981 Whitefish High School graduate, Raper played on the 1979 state championship football team. He attended the University of Montana, followed by three years as a ski bum in Oregon. He had a seven-year retail management career with J.C. Penney that took him to Idaho and Utah. Missing home and remembering the fun he had growing up here, Raper decided to move back to Whitefish in 1992, when raising a family of his own became a priority. Over the past 26 years he has been active in coaching youth sports. He served on the board for Whitefish Youth Soccer, Project Whitefish Kids, Whitefish Chamber of Commerce and both the local and regional Multiple Listing Service boards.

Skinner also is in the real-estate business. She earned her real estate license in 2001 and specializes in real estate at Whitefish Mountain Resort as an associate with Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty.

She grew up in Minnesota in a suburb of Minneapolis and always enjoyed outdoor activities, spending her summers water-skiing and playing tennis and softball. Skinner learned to ski when she was 5 years old, on the so-called “hills” of Minnesota and Wisconsin, where she found a passion for winter sports. After high school she attended the University of North Dakota, and later worked in Yellowstone National Park.

In the summer of 1996, Skinner took a trip with friends to hike in Glacier National Park and discovered Whitefish. The magic of the town took hold and she immediately knew that is where she belonged. She returned to Whitefish seven days later with all of her belongings in tow to stay for good.

Skinner married the love of her life, Tony Spear, in August 2017 in Whitefish. In the winters they can be found on the mountain and in the summer, it’s not uncommon to find them camping along a river somewhere in the valley with their golden retriever, Leo.

Whitefish Winter Carnival festivities continue Jan. 13 with the coronation of King Ullr LIX and the Queen of the Snows. A disco party is planned the same evening.

The carnival’s royal court will be completed when Princess Freya and Prince Frey are named during half-time at the Bulldogs basketball game on Jan. 20 at Whitefish High School.

Skijoring is planned Jan. 27-28, and the carnival culminates with a weekend of activities Feb. 2-3 that includes the Penguin Plunge, a pie social and grand parade. This year’s theme is “Fly Like An Eagle,” a nod to the parade marshal, renowned British Olympic ski jumper Michael Edwards, known as “Eddie the Eagle.”

Whitefish Winter Carnival is steeped in tradition, with a cast of costumed characters built around Nordic lore. As the legend goes, when the Nordic god Ullr went in search of a new home he found Big Mountain and built his life there, though he was perennially pestered by the abominable snowmen called the yetis, who run the streets at carnival time to this day, attempting to kidnap Ullr’s Queen of the Snows.

The Viking divas, adorned with their Nordic attire, offer kisses and the mark of the “V” on carnival goers’ faces to protect them from being captured by the yetis. Rugged mountain men also offer protection from the troublesome yetis.

Add to this a bunch of people in penguin costumes and it’s a wacky mix of fun for people of all ages.

For a complete list of activities, go to whitefishwintercarnival.com.

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