Each year, over 270 inches of lake-effect powder blankets the land. And as the locals know, if you don’t love snow, you won’t last very long in the Keweenaw. So how do locals survive, and even thrive, through nearly six months of winter?
Maybe it’s something ingrained in the local Finnish DNA. But honestly, it’s all about having fun. In fact, around here, we call snow “white gold.” All that powder, mixed with the region’s rolling terrain, forested wilderness, and moderate temperatures, makes the Keweenaw an ideal destination for winter activities and sports like cross country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, and snowmobiling. Its also drawn recognition as a Midwest destination for ice climbing and ice fishing.
But why does the Keweenaw get so much snow compared to the rest of the Midwest? We can thank Mother (Lake) Superior for that. According to our good friends at NOAA, as cold air from Canada crosses over the warmer, open water of Lake Superior, warmth and moisture are transferred into the lowest portion of the atmosphere forming conditions that can generate 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour or more. Because Lake Superior spends all summer absorbing heat form the sun, its slow to freeze over most winters moderating temps around the Keweenaw and storing potential energy for epic lake-effect snow.
With over 230 miles of snowmobile trails, the Keweenaw is a snowmobiler’s dream destination. Ride along the coast of Lake Superior, atop ancient mountain ridges, and enjoy picturesque trails with scenic vistas and breathtaking views. The Keweenaw trail system is well-maintained and offers trailside lodging and award-winning restaurants along the way.
The Keweenaw is also home to Michigan’s oldest and newest downhill ski resorts: Mount Bohemia Ski Resort and Mont Ripley. Mount Bohemia is best known for its “no beginners allowed” mentality (and for good reason). Mount Bohemia features a 900-foot vertical drop and 600 acres of skiable terrain. Its steep slopes, cliff bands, and exposed rock formations attract advanced skiers and snowboarders looking to test their skills and enjoy the experience of a lifetime. Mont Ripley, located in Houghton offers terrain suitable for all skill levels and also includes a ski terrain park and tubing park.
The Keweenaw has miles of trail-systems that are groomed for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-tire biking. Much of the Keweenaw’s summer trails are transitioned into winter sports trails once the snow starts to fall with unique trail systems in almost every community. These winter activities can also be enjoyed in backcountry settings on public lands for more solitary experiences.
A typical Keweenaw winter begins in late October and extends well into March and early April. Most winter trail systems begin to open up in mid to late December after a solid base is established. Depending on the timing of spring thaw, sports like cross country skiing, snowshoeing and downhills skiing can be enjoyed into April.