Updated for 2023 with additional Winter Carnival events! 
 

In a place that regularly averages over 200 inches of snow a year, playing in the snow has become a skill that the Keweenaw has honed to utter perfection. Michigan Technological University’s Winter Carnival, full of snow and ice sculptures, music, and outdoor sports, celebrates the incredible magnitude of Keweenaw snow. Though the event has grown significantly since its inception in 1922, it remains a staple Copper Country winter event. 

Winter Carnival Family

Winter Carnival, run entirely by Tech students from Blue Key National Honor Society, is a unifying experience that literally transcends generations. The experience of building snow statues, marveling at icy creations on campus, getting chilly and silly with friends has occurred for over a hundred years! 

Its bevy of events and promise of snowy masterpieces is reason enough to set your sights on a Keweenaw trip. Add in the perfect conditions for tons of other outdoor adventures, a thriving food, and shopping scene, you’ve got the recipe for an unforgettable winter vacation! Now, if you want to get the low-down on how to experience Winter Carnival in a way that’ll make our MTU engineer forefathers proud, follow along closely.

2023 Winter Carnival Theme

Each year, Winter Carnival takes on a different theme, and student snow statues are created to embody the given theme. This year's theme is: "Tasty Food For Wintry Moods." So, be on the lookout for some delicious looking snow statues! The morning after All-Nighter, you will see judges visit each statue, judging them on several criteria. Judging criteria includes: first impression, statue caption, lettering of caption, artistic value, intricacy, proportions, apparent effort, Winter Carnival Theme originality, whiteness of snow, and neatness of statue site.

ALL-NIGHTER

February 9, 2023 | All Night!

Though Winter Carnival is a multi-day event, the All-Nighter is the night. In the late afternoon, the students and organizations creating their snowy pièce de résistance are given one last overnight last-ditch attempt to finish and perfect their statue. The energy and activity on campus and all along Shelden Avenue is electric. The sounds of students working and encouraging each other, laughter, and music clamor. 

Statue built during all-nighter by a student organization.

Students build smaller snow statues, like this one, overnight during All-Nighter.

It’s an incredible time to walk through campus and watch the labor and skill the students employ to build these statues. Statue building techniques have been passed down through the years, and it’s fascinating to witness the evolution of a rough-hewn block of snow morph into a work of art. All I’ll say is that there are clothes irons involved. 

You’ll find a multitude of other attractions set to keep the energy and spirits high for all involved. An annual favorite, a DJ booth made of snow and ice is created for all to jam to music and maybe throw down a couple cool moves in your winter parka and snow pants! Belt out some tunes in the MUB during an All-Nighter Karaoke session, and warm your belly with a ton of pancakes at the ROTC Pancake fundraiser!

Student on scaffolding works on a snow statue.
The All-Nighter is the last dash for Tech students to perfect their snow statues. Photo credit: Michigan Technological University

 

SNOW STATUE WALKING TOUR

Best Time: February 9, 2023 

Once the entirely frozen ice sculpture crews have hit their 9 AM deadline and gone to bed, all of us warm and well-rested folks can marvel at the finished statues! The day after All-Nighter will show the statues at their absolute best- our recommendation is to start your trek to see them all at the Rozsa, walk through campus, down Shelden Ave, and don’t forget the fraternities in Hancock! 

Crowd views and photographs large snow statue.
The highlight of Winter Carnival is touring campus and the surrounding communities to view the impressive snow statues designed by Michigan Tech students.

This is also the perfect opportunity to trek through downtown Houghton and Hancock and explore the Winter Carnival week ice sculptures and banners painted by student organizations . Perhaps you’ll be looking to relive your favorite lunch spots, or craving a hot cup of coffee to warm you up – you will find a plethora of both new and long-established spots to enjoy! 

Statue viewing the morning after All-nighter.
Take a stroll down College Ave towards the heart of downtown Hancock, and view all the creative pieces of snow art on your way to lunch. 

Winter Carnival Royalty Coronation & Queens Exhibit

Royalty Coronation: February 4, 2023 | 7:00PM
Queen's Exhibit & Alumni Social: February 11, 2023 | 10:00AM-1:00PM

It's a great honor to be selected to represent the student body in the royalty competition. Join us in congratulating these students for their excellence within the community and on campus during the annual Winter Carnival Royalty Coronation. This grand event will take place at the Rozsa Center for Performing Arts.  Learn more about this year's royalty here.

The Alumni Social & Queen's Event provides you with the opportunity to see a special limited-time exhibit of Winter Carnival Queens artifacts and memorabilia dating back to 1958! Stop by the J. Robert Van Pelt Library (on campus)  to browse the various Queen's treasures, share stories, and enjoy warm refreshments!

ICE BOWLING

January 31, 2023 | 10:00PM
February 2, 2023 | 10:00PM 

Now folks, don’t let this name fool you. This isn’t some mere outdoor version of your Uncle Larry’s favorite pastime. We’re talking HUMAN ice bowling. As in lob your friends down the ice! Head to the Dee Stadium to watch as students sling their friends on a sled down the ice to knock down as many pins as possible. 

BROOMBALL

All week!
February 11, 2023 |Special Alumni-Student Broomball Invitational | 10:00AM-1:00PM 

Is it even really winter if broomball hasn’t happened yet? Broomball – quite literally a version of hockey played with a broom and a ball – began as a Winter Carnival event in the 1950s. The sport has grown significantly and enjoys a large contingent of players and fervent fans. Folks driving on US-41 through MTU’s campus have likely seen their rinks in the wintertime, so this is a great opportunity to watch the sport. Games will be played throughout Winter Carnival, and an Alumni vs Student match is available to register for! 

Students play a game of broomball during Winter Carnival.
Broomball combines hockey with everyone’s favorite household chore: sweeping. Photo credit: Michigan Technological University

Calendar of Events and event list for the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan.

Bigfoot Glowshoe 

February 9, 2023 | 6-9PM 

The Bigfoot Glowshoe is a fun nighttime snowshoe event at Michigan Tech Trails. This year will be bigger and better than ever with tons of glowing accessories, as well as lighting along the trail. Plan ahead and dress in your best glowshoe attire! The Michigan Tech Outdoor Adventure Program will provide snowshoes and a snack, included in the registration fee. This is a great family-friendly winter activity for everyone! 

WINTER CARNIVAL: STAGE REVUE SHOW

February 9, 2023 | 7:00PM 

This wildly popular sketch comedy event takes over the Rozsa stage and features many different MTU organizations. Here, the students cut loose and riff on the year’s theme with very cheeky and smart (but never blue) jokes. Tickets go fast for this event, so don’t hesitate to snag them!

ST. AL’S ICE MASS

February 10., 2023 | 5:30pm (livestream available)

Held in a magnificent open-air chapel made of snow and ice, St. Al’s Catholic church holds a public evening candlelight mass for the students and general public. This event has become a highlight event for people of every walk of life, as it celebrates the connection many people feel to winter, the outdoors, and their spirituality. Definitely worth viewing just to appreciate the building’s beauty and the student’s efforts – this event is open to all. 

HOCKEY 

February 10, 2023 | Puck drops at 7:07PM 
February 11, 2023 | Puck drops at 5:07PM 

No MTU experience is complete until you’ve gotten to see a MTU hockey game, and Carnival weekend is one of the most exciting times to catch a home game with our Huskies! A true hockey fan would know how important it is to see a game in Houghton since this Copper Country community is THE birthplace of professional hockey. The student and Keweenaw community fanbase are loyal and fierce, so the games and the crowd bring big energy! Almost as beloved as the sport is the electric Michigan Tech Pep Band – here they’ll be fully in their element in their signature black and yellow striped overalls bringing big sound and big energy! 

Hockey player acknowledges crowd during a game in a celebratory way.
Don’t miss out on Husky hockey while you’re in town for Winter Carnival. Photo credit: Michigan Technological University

Winter Carnival Comedian Mikey Day

February 10, 2023 | 9:00PM 

The Rozsa Center for Performing Arts always has something big up their sleeve for Winter Carnival Weekend, and this year, Blue Key and Late Night Programming are hosting the HILARIOUS Is it Cake host, SNL cast member, and stand-up comedian, Mikey Day! This is one show you will not want to miss; so make sure to reserve your ticket in advance! 

TORCHLIGHT PARADE AND FIREWORKS

February 11, 2023 | 8:45PM

Rounding out the Winter Carnival celebration is the Torchlight Parade and fireworks show. Post up opposite of Mont Ripley, and watch torch-bearing skiers make intricate patterns of light down the hill. After, watch a fireworks display light up the hill. This magical moment is a perfect launching point to enjoy the Houghton and Hancock dining scene and nightlife. Perhaps you hear the KBC calling you back to its warm halls,  your taste buds are craving some new and exciting flavors at The Den, or you’re ready for a libation at the DT overlooking the Lift Bridge… you earned it. It’s hard work having so much fun!

MORE WINTER OUTDOOR Activities

While your in the Keweenaw, you may as well knock out some of those Keweenaw bucket-list winter activities! Bring your family and friends to enjoy some of our favorite Keweenaw pastimes!

  • Go Skiing - Bring your skis and buy a day pass to Mont Ripley or Mount Bohemia! Mont Ripley features terrain for all skill levels, a ski park, and a tubing hill! Mount Bohemia is perfect for more advanced skiers looking for an extreme downhill adventure! 
  • Go ice skating - As the Birthplace of Professional Hockey, you can bet the Keweenaw has some exceptional historic and outdoor rinks! Make sure to bring your skates, as extremely limited rentals are available. 
  • Cross-Country Ski or Snowshoe - Michigan Tech has a world-class trail system available for all to explore! Grab snowshoe or ski rentals at the MTU Outdoor Adventure Program, or stop by Downwind Sports in downtown Houghton, MI 
  • Spectate Goofy Winter Carnival Events - We didn't have nearly enough space to mention all the wacky Winter Carnival Events, but there are several that are worth bundling up to enjoy! From snow volleyball and snow soccer, to Human Dog Sled Races, these events provide a hilariously good time! 

A team of students pull a dog-sled in the snow.
The human sled-dog competition is an annual favorite for Winter Carnival attendees. Photo credit: Michigan Technological University