Snowmobiling in the Keweenaw

Posted on December 14th, 2016

Copper Harbor OverlookIf someone were to dream of the location with the perfect weather for snowmobiling, a visit to the Keweenaw
Peninsula would likely make that dream come true. Blessed by the highest annual snowfall and most consistent fresh snowfall east of the Rocky Mountains, the Keweenaw is almost never short for snow. In fact, if the Keweenaw does not have snow to play in, then you will likely be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the eastern 2/3rds of the country that does.

The peninsula averages 20 feet of snow a season, with some seasons producing over 30 feet! Surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior, we do not need to rely on your average low pressure system to work through and bring us snow. All we need is the air to be cold enough and the winds blowing out of any direction but the south and the waters of Lake Superior supply the moisture and heat that is needed to produce what is called lake effect snow.

Taken in April 2014

Taken in April 2014

It does not need to be bitterly cold for lake effect snow to form. Early in the season we can see “lake effect” occur with temps in the low 30’s. By the heart of the season, the lake has cooled enough that air temps at the surface typically have to be around 25-26 degrees or colder. Thus, the snows typically start falling in early November and do not stop until late March or early April. We have had enough snow to play in as late as the first week of May!


In addition to the magic of lake effect snow, the big lake also helps to moderate the bitter cold. While other areas of the northern Midwest can be shivering in temps below zero, our temps can be in the teens- although it is likely snowing to beat the band!
It takes more than lots of snow to make an area a snowmobilers dream location. We also boast 233 miles of well groomed trails that vary in flavor from straight, wide, snowmobile superhighways to intimate twisty trails through the beautiful hardwoods. Snowmobilers can also ride their sleds to locations like the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, cross an 80 foot high trestle near Tamarack City, traverse Brockway Mountain Drive to take in the magnificent views of Lake Superior and Copper Harbor 400 feet below and ride all the way to the tip of the Keweenaw and look out onto the big lake on all three sides.

20150221_072437Our fleet of five groomers and their drivers work very hard all season to keep the trails as flat as can be. In an average season, those 5 groomers groom a total of 30,000 miles. That is more than 10% of all of the miles groomed in the entire state of MI and is like circumnavigating the planet 1.2 times! To say we take keeping our trails in great shape seriously would be an understatement. Some areas boast that they groom their trails at least once a week. Of the 233 miles in our system, each mile is groomed at least once in a 24 hour period and many see grooming multiple times in a 24 hour period. We are not satisfied with the conditions of our trails until they are like giant pool-table flat ribbons of snow.

winter-sunset-chris-bushongTo cap off the conditions making the Keweenaw a snowmobilers dream location are the multitude of businesses ready to cater to their needs. Choices for lodging range from hotels with all the amenities to beautiful rental homes to the good old fashioned mom and pop motels. Food choices are nearly endless as well. From well-known chain restaurants to locally owned brew pubs to the reliable burger at the bar, there are plenty of places to come in out of the snow and fill your belly.

Don’t have a snowmobile and want to experience it. The Keweenaw has a half dozen businesses that rent snowmobiles and have all the gear available for rent or borrow to keep you both safe and comfortable.

So what are you waiting for?! The snow is flying, we are not even halfway through December and have received nearly 70 inches of snow for the season thus far and are waiting!


This article was written by admitted snow junkie John Dee, who fell in love with the Keweenaw and it’s snow in 1991 and hated leaving so much, he moved here in 1999.

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