Adventuring North to Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula
Tucked way up north, in the Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula, residents of the Keweenaw Peninsula are swapping their leaf rakes for Yooper and turning up snowblowers in anticipation of the year’s first blizzard.
You see, the Keweenaw is about as far north as you can travel in Michigan. In fact, half of Canadians live south of the Keweenaw Peninsula. And Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is one of Nature’s incredible snow-making machines bestowing an annual average of 270 inches of powder each winter upon the Keweenaw’s rugged landscape. That’s more than 22 feet of snow.
But while some residents are eager to winterize their homes in favor of warmer climates, most are offering up hopeful prayers to Heikki Lunta, the local snow deity, to bring another year of abundant snow.
Grab Your Yooper Scoop
The Keweenaw region gets so much snow, they even have a special shovel called a Yooper Scoop (“yooper” is a term to describe residents of the Upper Peninsula or U.P.). Part sled/part bulldozer, it’s made of steel and capable of moving large amounts of snow after a blitzkrieg-style snowstorm. Homes are even built to enhanced codes to prevent roof collapses from the snow load. But any local will tell you its still advisable to shovel your roof multiple times a year to keep that from happening.
But locals don’t only survive the winter. They thrive during it thanks to thousands of wilderness acres crisscrossed by winter outdoor trails systems offering locals and visitors access to snowshoeing, fat-tire biking, cross country skiing and snowmobiling activities.
And with hundreds of miles of trails and reliable snow come unique winter-themed events. Community celebrations include annual Finnish-inspired wife-carrying competitions, a 150-mile sled dog race; and a winter carnival at nearby Michigan Tech University where students build huge but intricate snow statues.
Winter: It’s All Downhill
One unique twist to the Keweenaw’s winter repertoire is its mountainous (by Midwest standards) terrain which plays host to an under-the-radar alpine skiing scene. Locals have the choice between Mont Ripley in Hancock (Michigan’s longest running ski hill) and Mount Bohemia in Lac La Belle. Mount Bohemia features Michigan’s largest vertical drop at 900 feet and only operates on ungroomed, natural snow.
It’s Pronounced Sow-na
According to locals, a traditional Finnish sauna is the best way to chase away the chill after a long day of winter recreation. This nearly sacred process combines withstanding nearly intolerable heat generated by throwing water on heated stones, followed by a round of hitting yourself with birch branches to get the blood flowing. Then jumping into a lake or a pile of snow to shock your senses before starting the process over again. Toss in a local beer and local sausages cooked over the sauna stove, and you’re set up for a heavenly experience.
Read Also: Outdoor Adventures Abound in Franklin & Nantahala
Many Yoopers have wood-fired saunas built at home, but those without can visit Mount Bohemia’s Nordic Spa which offers impressive views of Keweenaw’s wilderness and easy access to the North Pole Bar. Plus, the U.P.’s largest outdoor hot tub.
Enjoying the Nightlife
Because of the Keweenaw’s northern latitude and lack of light pollution, its one of the rare U.S. locations suitable for Northern Lights viewing. During the winter months, the sun sets well before dinner, giving ample opportunity to stargaze and even enjoy a rare glimpse of the Aurora Borealis on a cloudless night.
Join the Keweenaw Community
Curious about experiencing a Keweenaw Winter? Join our community at www.keweenaw.info to learn more.