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.
January Industry Update
Houghton NYE Chook Drop Wraps Up 2023
Where’s The Snow At?
Portage Lake Lift Bridge Opens To Snowmobile Traffic
Winter Carnival Statues Underway
Destination Development Awards Now Open
Keweenaw Sustainability Series: Sustainability In Stages
Stop In The Mohawk Superette
Mont Ripley & Mount Bohemia Skiing Open
Jibba Jabba To Shred huron Street: Year Two
U.P. Dark Sky Festival To Welcome Stargazers In April
CopperDog 150 Introduces New Pre-Race Events
In the Headlines
The Keweenaw’s winter visitor economy is heavily dependent on snow. Attractions like Mount Bohemia and the Keweenaw’s 230 miles of groomed snowmobile trails attract visitors from across the Midwest. These rely on the hundreds of inches of powder generated by regular lake-effect snowfall.
This season, Mother Nature isn’t doing us any favors. December produced very little snowfall, delaying our winter trails and ski areas. And while the 60 inches in mid-January allowed the season to kick-off, warmer temperatures are rapidly eroding the snow base resulting in many canceled trips. Early estimates put December visitation 10% behind last year with January numbers yet to come in.
While there isn’t much we can do to create more snow for the Copper Country (beyond praying to Heikki Lunta), we’re still optimistic for our winter events season. Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival is adapting to the late snow start with statues starting to take shape. Organizers of Jibba Jabba are still marching forward. We also know, when winter eventually returns, visitors will be excited to make the trip north.
Visit Keweenaw makes investments in community infrastructure to drive tourism and improve resident experiences each year through its Destination Development Program. Local units of government and Houghton & Keweenaw County nonprofits can receive money from Visit Keweenaw to finance placemaking projects and attractions to boost visitation. Example projects could include trailhead development, a way to share local history or interpretive signage to help find points of interest or waterfalls.
Painesdale Mine & Shaft used the program to install interpretive signage last year. (Painesdale Mine & Shaft)
“Since the program started in 2022, we’ve been able to provide more than $100,000 in Destination Development awards in the Keweenaw community,” said Visit Keweenaw Executive Director Brad Barnett. “These investments have supported amazing community projects like beginner-friendly trails, downtown murals, signage and even emergency service rescue equipment. It’s been a great opportunity to partner with community organizations while enhancing the visitor experience.”
Applicants are encouraged to complete projects by Sept. 30, 2024. Awards are a cost reimbursement and require a 50% match from the applicant or an eligible partner source.
Fill out an application before April 1, 2024. Reach out to email@example.com with questions about the program or your application.
Visit Keweenaw and the City of Houghton hosted a New Years Eve Chook Drop on the Pier Jan. 31 from 11:30 p.m. -midnight. A chook, or a beanie, symbolizes staying warm in the Keweenaw winter and is popular fashion in the U.P. like plaid. More than 300 people attended this first-time event braving the cold to celebrate entering 2024. Calumet DJ Party Sounds kept the night grooving with music and lights. Adding this event to the yearly lineup brings the community together and invites more people to choose the Keweenaw as a NYE destination.
Groups of attendees gathered around the chook for a picture to remember the night. (Visit Keweenaw)
There were many smiling faces, photos and memories made that night. Folks of all ages attended this family-friendly event for a wholesome evening next to the Portage Canal. Many grabbed a photo with the chook and 2024 lights on their way out. The Portage Lake District Library and lift bridge made a great backdrop on the pier. Visit Keweenaw thanks the City of Houghton and its public works for helping facilitate and coordinate the chook drop.
January has dumped nearly six feet of snow, leading into a strong start for outdoor winter recreation. Skiers and snowboarders were able to enjoy opening days at Bohemia and Ripley, and many XC ski trails are groomed and open. From Jan. 11-Jan. 20 we received almost five feet.
However, with a warm-up week predicted ahead, keep an eye on trail conditions. Some melt is expected, keeping the Keweenaw Trails in very early season conditions. The Snowmobile Club is halting grooming temporarily until conditions allow for more grooming.
Keep an eye on our Snowfall & Trail Conditions page for the latest updates from groomers across the Keweenaw.
Snowmobiles are now passing under the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on its lower deck. This marks an integral moment of winter when the Keweenaw Snowmobile Club (KSC) can help lay a snow road and groom across the bridge. It came about a month later than normal because of a slower snow accumulation in December. January pounded on the snow, allowing the bridge to open to snowmobilers.
Some of the first snowmobilers to cross the bridge. (Keweenaw Snowmobile Club)
“We’re excited for another season and getting the trail system connected between Houghton and Hancock,” said Ryan LaPorte, KSC president. “This critical trail allows access to many businesses and is an amazing experience to cross for every rider. Come on up and enjoy the ride!”
Check Keweenaw Trail Reports on Facebook for the latest snowmobile conditions in the Keweenaw.
Michigan Tech students are busy chipping away at their month-long statues. The blocks of compacted snow have been delivered and will start looking more defined in the next couple weeks. Judging begins on Feb. 7 @ 9:30 a.m.
Winter Carnival began as a mid-winter circus show for students and now stands as a weeklong series of fun events that current Huskies, the community and alumni look forward to each year. It’s a festive part of Keweenaw winters.
Soon, you’ll be able to tour the Winter Carnival Snow Statues. (Visit Keweenaw)
Look for two home hockey games on Saturday, Feb. 3 and Friday, Feb. 9 at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. The torchlight parade and fireworks at Mont Ripley can be seen across the canal at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10. Check out our Insider’s Guide To Winter Carnival.
On Friday, Jan. 5 Rozsa Center Director Mary Jennings presented on how the Rozsa is moving toward a more sustainable future. From serving methods to waste management – there are steps venues can take to minimize the impact of their waste. The Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts is the Upper Peninsula’s largest performance venue. Large shows like the Charlie Berens performance in November are a big driver for visitation to the region. That night, a group of bars and restaurants around Houghton and Hancock ran Old Fashioned specials for the show.
Come to the next series presentation: Enhancing Accessible Tourism on March 26 at noon. The Keweenaw Sustainable Tourism Series is hosted at the Keweenaw Community Foundation, 236 Quincy St. in Hancock. You’ll hear from the Accessible Keweenaw Initiative (AKI) about their efforts to enhance the accessibility of the region’s collection of recreation and cultural amenities.
This panel discussion will cover topics like the need for local accessibility investments, available resources for community planning and the group’s progress in the last year.
A beloved pit-stop for take and go food: swing by the Mohawk Superette off US-41 in the unincorporated community of Mohawk. You’ll find tasty Keweenaw eats like pasties, sandwiches and salads. Some locals say the Superette has the best pasty in the Keweenaw, and if you like jalapeño you should try their spicy pasty.
A classic sign on US-41. (Mohawk Superette)
The Superette is a staple for community members, but visitors enjoy this treat too. It’s one of the only places to stop for drinks and food to go between Calumet and Lac La Belle. These businesses stay open all year long with the support of loyal customers and visitors. Stop in the Superette next time you’re in Mohawk and you’ll soon be coming back again for this hidden gem Keweenaw snack shack.
Powering through an odd start to winter – both Mont Ripley Ski Area and Mount Bohemia Ski Resort are operating and open to skiers and snowboarders. Mont Ripley is working on covering its west side, as well as Deertrack Trail and Wipeout. It hopes to pack on the snow ahead of a warm up this coming week to avoid the hill thawing in areas.
Keep an eye on snow reports for the best days to ride. (Visit Keweenaw)
Mount Bohemia has been busy, opening after winning #1 Ski Resort in North America by USA Today in December. Skiers and snowboarders have been trekking in from out of town and enjoying the opening weeks with fresh powder. Mount Bohemia’s Nordic Spa is open every day in compliment to the hill, and offers two brand new saunas this season. A dry Himalayan salt sauna and a steamy Finnish sauna with views of the ski slopes.
Follow Mount Bohemia on Facebook to stay up to date with latest conditions and what’s new.
Jibba Jabba, a high-energy professional snowboarding event returns to Huron Street on Saturday, Feb. 17 promising a rail jam spectacle. The show starts at 6 p.m. – but riders will be warming up ahead of time. The course will be constructed Friday and stretch from Shelden Avenue to the pier. The designed course is perfect for riders to perform impressive tricks for the crowd.
Catch the excitement this Feb. 17 on Huron Street. (Visit Keweenaw)
This snow shredding event boasts to Houghton’s winter sports culture. The region receives significant annual snowfall – positioning the Keweenaw and Houghton as a Midwest mecca of outdoor winter recreation. These professional riders will compete for a $1,000+ cash purse for best male and female.
Lakeshore Drive will close for the event, bringing food vendors, crowds of spectators and a good time to downtown Houghton.
The first-ever Upper Peninsula Dark Sky Festival was a hit last year at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Big names in the Midwest presented like Astro Bob, photographer Marybeth Kiczenski and leader of Michigan Aurora Chasers Melissa Kaelin. This year, there’s an extra day to get to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, giving attendees an extra night of dark sky access.
Stargazers will make their way to the beautiful Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor. (Chris Guibert)
The festival structures the day around speakers, meals and moonlit snowshoe hikes. On clear nights, attendees are encouraged to go out and explore the Dark Sky Park taking in all the glory of the stars and milky way. If attendees are lucky, the northern lights will make an appearance.
Keep an eye out for tickets when they go on sale.
Building on the vibrant CopperDog 150 Weekend – the CopperDog crew is bringing new events to the mix. On Sunday, Jan. 28 – there were free kids sled dog rides at Agassiz Park. This free meet and greet is fun for the family and let kids get a great experience with the dogs.
The races will finish in Calumet this year on Sunday, March 3. Watch the big race start Friday night on 5th Street. Come out Saturday and Sunday to see the CopperPull and CopperDash! Twin Cities Dog Powered Sports and CopperDog will hold three W3PO sanctioned weight pull events and a kids mutt run on the snow road in Calumet that weekend. The CopperPull and CopperDash have plans to accommodate for a lack of snow if necessary.
Stay tuned to the CopperDog 150 Facebook for the latest updates.
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