While many people hear horror stories about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula winters, the people who choose to live there celebrate the excessive amount of snow rather than dread it. Some of my fondest memories attending Michigan Technological University are from Winter Carnival: playing snow rugby and broomball, watching hockey, dog sled racing, all night statue building, hiking ice caves, breaking Guinness records, the list goes on. Winter Carnival isn’t just celebrated by Michigan Tech’s students, faculty, and alumni; but the community and people from all over as well. 

The Keweenaw Peninsula gets so much snow in a given year that there is literally a giant thermometer that keeps track of the amount of feet in snow that falls. Due to the excessive amount of snow, and the display Michigan Tech puts on every year, snow tourism is at its peak in the beginning of February for the small college town that is Houghton, MI. Hotels, bars, and especially the college have designated parking areas for snowmobilers. Michigan Tech even owns one of the oldest ski areas in Michigan, Mont Ripley Ski Hill right across Portage Lake from the school, allowing students to enjoy the proximity of skiing and snowboarding; bonus because Tech also offers these fun activities as gym credits!  

What is Winter Carnival? 

Winter Carnival is many things, but mostly it is a celebration of the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula and what would otherwise be a dreadful snow buried old mining town. What started as a one-day event in 1922, Winter Carnival, has grown into a four-day event for people of all ages to enjoy. Not only is this a huge event for the college, but the local towns and community take such fun out of this event as well. Whether it’s building sculptures of their own, or sponsoring royalty candidates, the local community thrives off of this annual event as much as the college.  

One of the most notable things about Carni are the ice sculptures: community sculptures, month long sculptures, all-nighter sculptures. No matter the amount of time spent on these ice sculptures or how they turn out, they are always a blast to make with your friends and organizations. Though that doesn’t go without saying that the grandiose month-long statues Greek life works on, turn into pieces of art. Each year Winter Carnival has a different theme, and the statues are built according to that theme. Personally, my favorite theme is a tie between ‘Discover What Shines From Prehistoric Times’ and ‘Our Favorite Cartoons for Snowy Afternoons”, but then again who wouldn’t want to see an ice sculpture of a dinosaur? Below you can see a rendition of the Quincy Mine, which is what gave the small town its start.

Autumn Koleski photo credit
Autumn Koleski photo credit

Winter Carnival Centennial 

While you can find a look back at the history of Winter Carnival here, the Centennial Winter Carnival is officially under way February 9th. The theme for 2022 is ‘Come One, Come All To Our 100th Carnival’, which is pretty straight to the point. If you want to find out more about the scheduling, royalty candidates, events, and how to participate you can find out here. 

Each year the fraternities and sororities spend a month building a spectacular ice sculpture to the theme of that year. Working in shifts from day to night, these college students work hard to make the beautiful sculptures that pull in millions of views to this small town in the sometimes-forgotten Upper Peninsula. While the statues for this year still have a few more days to come into their full form, take a look at this ROTC rocket from 2017.

Autumn Koleski photo credit
Autumn Koleski photo credit

What events go on during Winter Carnival? 

There are also a wide variety of events to attend, and things to do. While hockey, skiing, and snowboarding are all awesome outdoor activities during Carni, one of my favorites was attending dog sled races, and sometimes being able to ride in those dog sleds. Watching and playing broomball, then enjoying some hot cocoa from the cocoa trailer is a must during Carni. 

When it comes time to start the nightly walk throughout campus to see the finishing touches being done for the snow sculptures you get to enjoy the music from the snow rave, club booths with snacks and warm drinks, games and so many other activities. Depending on what was chosen to be built that year, there are some outdoor activities to keep you entertained like human snow foosball, ice bowling, snow volleyball, curling, snow soccer, etc. I know I always looked forward to playing the annual club snow rugby game against Northern Michigan University. 

Though, if you want a brief escape from the cold, there are plenty of indoor activities to do as well. During all nighter you can find movies being streamed and the all you can eat pancake bar in Fisher building. Or, if you want to melt off some of the snow and have a laugh, you can always sit in and enjoy The Stage Review or Winter Carnival Royalty; pancake art is a real talent.  

All in all, no matter what you decide to fill your time with, Michigan Technological University’s Winter Carnival has an abundance of options no matter the preference. Having seen the success of this event for the past 100 years, I’m sure Winter Carnival will continue to grow and help the community, faculty, and student body thrive the frigid winters and lake affect wind. If you want to learn more about the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula and events that take place up there, you can find out at Keweenaw.info. 

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