February 2024 | Industry Newsletter


The Keweenaw’s visitor economy plays a vital role in our region’s quality of life and future prosperity. To keep local leaders and stakeholders current on issues impacting the industry, Visit Keweenaw created this monthly newsletter to share information on topics such as economic trends, destination and community investments, and other pertinent news.

We hope you find this a valuable resource to stay up to date on the Keweenaw’s visitor economy and encourage you to share it with parties you think would benefit from the information. As always, we look forward to sharing what makes the Keweenaw a special community to both live in and visit.

In this Newsletter:

The Visitor Economy

There’s no denying February continues the trend of a very disappointing winter season for the Keweenaw’s visitor industry. Traditionally, the second month of the year is the busiest and most reliable winter month for our region’s businesses. Travelers often book their annual ski or snowmobile trip during February to take advantage of the traditionally reliable snowfall. Unfortunately, Heiki Lunta has not held up its end of the bargain.

The result is an estimated 10-35% decline in visitation for January and a potential loss of as much as $4.4 million in local visitor spending. This is exceedingly painful for many businesses who are forced to reduce payrolls and, in some cases, operating hours.

However, despite the challenges presented by Mother Nature, our communities and volunteers persist. Students from Michigan Tech, facing spring-like temperatures, demonstrated ingenuity and perseverance by hosting Winter Carnival this year. Yes, the month-long snow statue competition was reduced to two weeks due to lack of snow. But they still created incredible works of art that drew visitors, families, and alumni to Houghton.

In an amazing display of commitment, the City of Houghton’s DPW crew hauled approximately 70 dump trucks worth of snow to build the course for Jibba Jabba’s pro rail jam. This helped attract an estimated audience of more than a thousand attendees to watch some of the Midwest’s top snowboard talent put on a show. 

And while CopperDog 150 may not hold their traditional races, they’re still on track to host three days of fun events to attract attendees to Calumet and the broader region. It’s truly inspiring to see how much these organizers care about what these events mean to residents and the area’s businesses.  

FINN Partners Joins Visit Keweenaw Team

The Visit Keweenaw team is proud to announce the addition of FINN Partners, a globally integrated marketing agency, to its destination promotion efforts. FINN Partners, which has deep industry expertise in travel and tourism, will be supporting Visit Keweenaw as it plans its spring and summer programs which seek to position the Keweenaw region as a prime destination for outdoor enthusiasts and geo-heritage-based visitation.

“FINN Partners is proud to partner with Visit Keweenaw to help promote this one-of-a-kind destination to travelers seeking undisturbed nature, boundless fresh waters, and plentiful outdoor adventure,” said Julie Joupperi, Vice President, FINN Partners. ”Our team has strong roots in the Midwest, including many passionate Michiganders who are deeply dialed into the travel industry. We look forward to helping drive spring and summer tourism through a digital media campaign that will put the Keweenaw Peninsula in front of the right audiences at the right time.”

The partnership comes at a time when Visit Keweenaw is seeking to help the region rebound from a historically challenging winter tourism season. Since 2020, the Visit Keweenaw team has internally managed and executed all its marketing programs; however, changes in technology, consumer behavior and industry best practices make it conducive to work with a firm like FINN so that we can put our best foot forward to support our members and business community.  

Destination Development Awards Still Open

Visit Keweenaw is excited to announce it is accepting Destination Development applications until April 1, 2024. Houghton and Keweenaw County nonprofits and local governments can still apply to the program.

Destination Development initiatives can take various forms but are generally focused on placemaking principles that leverage a community’s unique characteristics to enhance the experiences of both residents and visitors. The intentional process of making investments in community infrastructure aims to improve a destination’s ability to attract visitors and create lasting, positive impacts.

Projects eligible for funding could look like new trailheads, historical exhibits or interpretive signage to help guide people through attractions in the area. These types of investments not only benefit visitors, but they also contribute to the overall development of the local community.

Local units of government and nonprofit organizations in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties are encouraged to apply. Businesses are ineligible for direct funding, but they can be a part of an application team by bringing ideas, expertise and resources to the application. If you have questions about the process or your application, email

Jibba Jabba Draws Large Turnout on Huron Street

Jibba Jabba, Houghton’s Pro-Snowboard Event, brought a large crowd to Huron Street for a thrilling evening of snowboard tricks. Food trucks set up on the pier and a snow course was built from Shelden Avenue down to the Portage Lake District Library. Thousands of spectators made their way to the event throughout the night. Two lucky attendees went home with free snowboards donated by Never Summer and the best male and female rider left with a $1,000 cash purse.

Snowboarder performs stunt at Jibba Jabba.Sweet tricks were seen on Huron Street during Jibba Jabba! (SmartCreative)

Jibba Jabba filled Houghton’s downtown with activity – bringing a strong turnout over the weekend. A timely snowstorm created the perfect ambiance for the event. The rail jam boasts Houghton and the Keweenaw as a prime winter snow sports destination. With Mont Ripley and Mount Bohemia across the canal – attendees can be inspired to try snowboarding themselves. Incredible photographers like SmartCreative helped photograph the night and capture the fun. Jibba Jabba event partners included the City of Houghton, Visit Keweenaw, Minnie Farms, Portage Lake District Library, and others. 

CopperDog 150 Weekend Update

The iconic CopperDog 150 may have seen the cancellation of its traditional dog sled races, but the spirit of this cherished event still shines strong! Come join in the celebration of community, passion and love for the CopperDog at the annual Block Party on Friday night, March 1 featuring new additions. There will still be music, dogs, races and entertainment at this year’s block party!

Fireworks at CopperDog

Catch the fireworks show Friday night in Calumet at CopperDog.

Join the CopperDog family for the brand new CopperDrag Race Friday evening! Two dogs will go paw to paw on a short race track down 5th Street in Calumet! Expect activities to be centered around the 100 block from the Keweenaw National Historical Park Visitor Center to the Dean Kangas Building. Dave & Bill Brotherton will pump up the jams on Friday night with Street Party Music from 6-11 p.m. Don’t miss the CopperDog Fireworks at 9 p.m. presented by Pisani Distributing on 5th Street. 

See the full weekend event schedule online.

Visit Keweenaw is a proud sponsor of CopperDog 150 and would like to thank the dedicated volunteers who- make this event possible.

Winter Carnival Pushes Through Warm Weather

The weather was not cooperative during the MTU Winter Carnival, rising above freezing most days. Despite higher-than-normal temperatures, students were still able to create ice sculptures, play broomball and enjoy the traditional torchlit parade with fireworks at Mont Ripley. While weather conditions dampened the event turnout, it still attracted visitors to the region supporting local restaurants, retail and lodging.

TKE won first place in the month-long competition this year with its sculpture “The Lighthouse Shines the Way as the Ranger Heads to Bay”. 

“The Lighthouse Shines the Way as the Ranger Heads to Bay” (Michigan Tech)

“The Lighthouse Shines the Way as the Ranger Heads to Bay” (Michigan Tech)

Visit Keweenaw is a proud sponsor of Winter Carnival and would like to thank Michigan Tech’s students and administration who went above and beyond to put on the festival this year. 

Second U.P. Dark Sky Festival Registration Opens

The Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is welcoming stargazers and astral photographers to Copper Harbor for the second annual Upper Peninsula Dark Sky Festival April 11-13. This year, a third day is being added to allow for more activities and speakers at the festival. This educational weekend brings visitors from across the Midwest and further. Offering some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states, the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is an opportunity like no other.

“It is a joy to be able to share what we are doing at the top of Michigan with the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park,” said John Mueller, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge owner. “By fostering dark skies, we are helping people get closer to nature. The knowledge you will gain from the Upper Peninsula Dark Sky Festival speakers will leave you yearning to use the knowledge you gained in your everyday lives. We look forward to a relaxing and educational weekend in April with fellow outdoor and dark sky enthusiasts.”

Night sky at Keweenaw Mountain LodgeThe Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is calling stargazers and astral photographers to Copper Harbor on April 11-13. (Chris Guibert)

Attendees will get firsthand experience connecting with the Keweenaw’s dark skies and will feel inspired going home. The event positions the Keweenaw as a leader in the space of dark sky conservation and brings industry experts to the area each year. The Keweenaw holds the only dark sky park in Upper Michigan and puts on an internationally recognized dark sky festival each year. With its natural areas and minimal light pollution, the Keweenaw is a perfect place to lead efforts to foster and preserve the night sky.

Tickets are on sale now – get yours before they sell out. This ticket includes admission to all workshops, lectures and activities as well as a rustic worldly lunch on Friday and Saturday.

The UP Dark Sky Festival is a joint effort between the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park and Visit Keweenaw with a mission of educating attendees and celebrating the Keweenaw’s dark skies.

Sauna Week Steams Up the Keweenaw

The Finnish sauna is the best and that authentic sauna culture still burns strong in the Keweenaw. To raise awareness and appreciation of this community service, the Finlandia Foundation declared the last week of February National Sauna Week.

Sauna at Mt. BohemiaMount Bohemia’s new Himalayan salt sauna will relax your body and mind.

The Upper Midwest is known as the Sauna Belt. The Finnish Theme Committee (FTC) in Hancock says the Keweenaw is the buckle of that belt. To prove the point, the FTC hosted a variety of sauna events during National Sauna Week. There was a Sauna Expo, Forum and self-guided tour over the weekend of the 24 & 25.

Be sure to check out the Nordic spa at Mount Bohemia or Superior Steam at Fresh Coast Cabins to unwind in a Keweenaw sauna soon. Another local sauna – at the Calumet AmericInn was also recently remodeled for its guests.

Sustainable Tourism Series Resumes March 26: Enhancing Accessible Tourism

The Keweenaw Sustainable Tourism Series continues on March 26 at noon with a presentation by the Accessible Keweenaw Initiative (AKI). Accessing the Keweenaw’s amenities is an important way of life for those who live and visit here. Representatives from AKI will hold a panel discussion on topics like the need for accessibility investments, available resources for community planning and the groups progress over the last year.

AKI is a coalition of community members, organizations, and subject matter experts. It’s responsible for identifying priority sites, assisting with pursuing funding for site improvements and sharing that information with the broader community about places residents and visitors can enjoy barrier-free.

Come to the discussion at the Keweenaw Community Area Foundation at 236 Quincy St. in Hancock.

In the Headlines

‘No Beginners Allowed’: A Midwestern Paradise for Skiers Who Dare – New York Times

Midwest Nice: Michigan Ski Area Offers Reciprocal Season Passes to Neighbor Until Conditions Improve – Yahoo! Life/Powder Mag

U.P. ski resort adds two-person ‘salt pod cabin’ to spa amenities – MLive

11 Ideal Destination for a 3-Day Getaway Weekend in Michigan – WorldAtlas

7 Of The Most Hospitable Small Towns In Michigan – WorldAtlas

Unveiling the Hidden Gems of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula –

Giant snow sculpture of iconic U.P. sights takes first place in annual contest – MLive

Jibba Jabba Returns to Houghton – WLUC TV6

On the rails: Jibba Jabba competition returns to Houghton – Daily Mining Gazette

CopperDog cancels U.P.’s last 2024 sled dog races, shifts to street party – MLive

CopperDog 150 races canceled, event activities to continue – WLUC TV6

Swedetown Trails celebrate Winter Trails Day – WLUC TV6

U.P. Dark Sky Festival to feature stargazing, workshops at historic Keweenaw lodge – MLive