Houghton's Snow Building, February 6,
Inside is a history of
Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival, as well as food and beverages.
Friday, February 8, 2:30 p.m., as Winter Carnival gears up.
About the construction of Houghton's
Snow House 2002
the idea come from?
Patrick Coleman, president of
U.P. Engineers & Architects, Inc., is a member of the Winter Cities Association,
a world-wide organization dedicated to making northern cities more livable. He
toured several snow castles in Scandinavia during a Winter Cities conference in
2000. When he returned to the Copper Country, he asked City of Houghton and City
of Hancock officials, “Why not here?”
constructed Houghton's Snow House?
The building was constructed
in mid-January by City of Houghton employees with the help of a variety of other
groups and individuals. Key to the project was Finnish Snow Engineer Seppo
Makinen, an expert in snow construction. He was hired by a local group to come
to the U.S. and teach Copper Country residents how to construct snow buildings.
this building constructed?
Finnish Snow Engineer Seppo
Makinen provided local residents engineering specifications for “forms” made out
of lumber. The forms, very similar to roof trusses, were covered with sheet
metal. The bottom of the forms sat on top of wood blocks about eights off the
ground. With the forms in place, snow was blown on top of the them. Once the
snow hardened, in about 24 hours, the blocks of wood were knocked out from
underneath the forms. This allowed them to drop down. They were then slid out,
leaving just the hardened snow.
BUILDING WITH SNOW:
NORTHERN MICHIGAN TOWNS TO CONSTRUCT SNOW HOUSES
By Patrick J. Coleman,
The heavy lake effect snowfalls experienced by some communities in
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have not always been welcomed. Annual snowfall
amounts exceeding 250 inches (600 cm) create additional costs for snow
management, difficult driving and walking conditions, and extend winter’s
effects well into the spring season.
In the last fifteen years however, the region has developed a strong
winter tourism industry based upon snowmobiling and skiing that takes advantage
of the excellent and reliable snow conditions and the area’s natural beauty.
A new response to winter has evolved, based upon the winter cities model.
The cities of Houghton and Hancock are located on the Keweenaw Peninsula,
a finger of land extending into the Lake Superior. In this area, recorded
snowfalls are among the highest in North America. The cities face each
other on steep hillsides across the waters of Portage Lake and share a rich
history from a century of copper mining. The mines have been closed for
more than 30 years, but the area economy has stabilized due to the presence of
Michigan Technological University (MTU). In recent years, the cities have
benefited from the development of small, high tech firms who locate there for
the high quality of life, despite the remote location of the region.
Snow has long been used to construct large, elaborate statues for MTU’s
Winter Carnival. This annual event has run for over 75 years, and the
student organizations have developed snow statue building to a fine art. This
winter, however, Houghton and Hancock residents and visitors will experience
something new. Several snow buildings will be constructed as a cooperative
pilot project in Houghton and Hancock. This will be the first project of
its type in the United States.
In the last decade, constructing buildings with snow has been done
successfully at several sites in the northern areas of Finland and Sweden.
The Ice Hotel at Jukkasjarvi, Sweden and the LummiLinna Snowcastle in Kemi,
Finland have attracted international attention and visitation. Houghton
and Hancock learned of these developments through their involvement with the
Livable Winter Cities Association. It was determined that something
similar could be done, given the area’s snowfall, experience with snowbuilding,
and tourism markets. In addition, many area residents are of Finnish
heritage and the cities are developing business and sister city relationships
The pilot snowbuilding project will consist of two separate structures,
one in each city. The project is being developed as a community volunteer
effort. Funding for the pilot has been raised from contributions from the
two cities, the Keweenaw Tourism Council, and an arts grant from the State of
Michigan. Technical and project management support is being provided by
U.P. Engineers & Architects, a regional design firm. The cities will
contribute equipment and workers to construct the building shell. Labor
and finishing details will be provided by students from MTU and Finlandia
University, a small college in Hancock. Local artists will contribute
works of art for the interior of the structures.
The pilot project has contracted for professional assistance from one of
the world’s leading experts on snow construction. Seppo Makinen, of
Snowhow Co. of Oulu, Finland has been providing technical expertise to the
design of the structures and will travel to Houghton/Hancock to oversee
construction in early January 2002. Mr. Makinen has been involved with
snowbuildings at Kemi, Lahti and Helsinki, Finland.
Each building will consist of arched snow vaults of over 1000 square feet
of enclosed space. The interiors and exteriors will be embellished with
art work and ice. In Hancock, the “Lumitalo”, (Finnish for snowhouse),
will include an ice café, where visitors can have a coffee and a snack, and a
frozen art gallery. In Houghton, the structure will be used as a visitors
center for Winter Carnival.
As a pilot project, the goal is to test the feasibility of creating
large, more elaborate structure as a tourism attraction. Impacts of the
climate on the structure, visitation and community support will be measured and
evaluated. Local officials will also be considering whether snow buildings
can be economically constructed for other special purposes. One idea is to
use a snow structure to house a curling rink. Other uses, such as a bar,
lodging, and ski resort shelter will also be considered.
The cities of Houghton and Hancock are learning that their tremendous
annual snowfall is something very unique. The snowbuilding project
uses snow as a resource for economic development and is an exciting way to for
the communities to celebrate this uniqueness.