Weather permits return of Winter Carnival tradition

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette The forms for a snow house are seen at the Shelden Avenue site. Prime house-building conditions allowed the return of the tradition after an absence of several years.

HOUGHTON — A Winter Carnival tradition is resuming this year.

The city of Houghton is building a snow house on Shelden Avenue in conjunction with the carnival.

The first Winter Carnival snow buildings in the Houghton/Hancock area came in 2002, inspired by similar structures in Finland and Sweden. This is the first one in City Manager Eric Waara’s four-year tenure.

That owes mostly to weather conditions. Two years ago, everything melted the weekend before. Three years ago, there was so much snow, “we couldn’t keep up,” Waara said.

“Whatever could go wrong for building a snow house did,” he said.

This year, it hasn’t. It is being built on a Shelden Avenue site vacant since a 2016 fire. In addition to the downtown location, being between buildings gives it built-in site containment, Waara said.

The house will be about 20-by-24-feet when completed, Waara said.

“It’s not huge, but it’s something different,” he said.

The house is built by putting in forms then filling it with snow from a snowblower, changing the physical properties. The snow sits for several days to harden. One it’s solidified, the forms are knocked away.

An archway will be added. Volunteers from the city’s beautification committee will do some decorating inside.

In addition to rudimentary furniture, there will also be displays of historical items from previous Winter Carnivals.

“It’ll be a unique place for people to hang out and hopefully take some photos and hashtag it,” Waara said.

Everything should be complete by Thursday or Friday. The house will stay up as long as the weather holds, Waara said.

“Once it appears we’re going to get a warm spell, for better or worse, it’s a simple process of getting an end loader in there and putting a bucket on it,” he said. “It’s nothing but a pile of snow then.”