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Friday, February 05, 2021

Phi Kappa Tau wins Winter Carnival Statue Competition

Phi Kappa Tau fraternity in Hancock again wins first place in Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival snow statue competition! Their statue, "Futurama," was designed for this year's theme, "Our Favorite Cartoons for Snowy Afternoons." Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

By Mark Wilcox, News Writer, Michigan Tech University Marketing and Communications

Posted Feb. 4, 2021, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted in part with permission.

HOUGHTON -- Despite restrictions put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, entries in the month-long snow statue competition in MTU's Winter Carnival exceeded last year's.

For the fourth time in the last five years, Phi Kappa Tau is the overall winner of the month-long snow statue competition in Michigan Technological University’s Winter Carnival. This year’s theme is "Our Favorite Cartoons for Snowy Afternoons." Phi Kappa Tau’s statue, "Futurama," is located outside the fraternity’s house in Hancock. The statue also won the men’s division.

This photo shows some details in the Phi Kappa Tau scene from Futurama, an animated workplace sitcom about a Planet Express delivery company. A crew is loading four cryogenic tanks for interplanetary travel away from the lingering 2020 dangers on earth. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

There were three divisions in the month-long competition -- men, women and co-ed. Prizes were awarded to the top three statues in each division. The top three scores among all the statues were placed in the overall month-long category.

Second place in the overall category went to Alpha Gamma Delta and Sigma Tau Gamma for "Steamboat Willie and Mickey Mouse." The fraternity/sorority team also took first place in the co-ed division. Third place overall was awarded to Tau Kappa Epsilon for "Looney Toons." Click here for the rest of this article on Winter Carnival winners.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

14th Annual Barneløpet children's ski race postponed to Feb. 21; new grooming machine acquired for Maasto Hiihto trails

Kids take off for a race during one of the annual Barneløpet ski events at Maasto Hiihto. This year's Barneløpet has been postponed to Sunday, Feb. 21, because of weather predicted for this weekend. (Photo © Keith Meyers and courtesy Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club)

HANCOCK --  Families with young children and teenaged skiers will once again make a colorful sight on the hills surrounding the Hancock Driving Park for the start of the 14th Annual Barneløpet* on Sunday February 21. Originally scheduled for this Sunday, Feb. 7, the annual children's ski event at the Maasto Hiihto ski trails has been postponed to Feb. 21 due to expectations of dangerous wind chills. 

Co-sponsors of the event are Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club (KNSC), Sons of Norway Ulseth Lodge 5-670, the City of Hancock, Steve Zutter of Edward Jones and the Portage Health Foundation. Registration is at the Four Seasons Chalet beginning at 1 p.m. on the day of the race (Feb. 21). Races start at 2 p.m. at the Maasto Hiihto cross country ski trails on the north side of the Hancock Driving Park.

The Barneløpet, a Norwegian word meaning "the children’s race," is open to youth ages 3 through 17 and their families. The event is hosted by Sons of Norway, KNSC, and the City of Hancock.

"This is a special day for youth and their families to spend some time skiing and having fun together," says Wayne Stordahl, longtime member of the local chapter of Sons of Norway and KNSC board. "Cross country skiing is a popular family activity in Norway and we want to encourage that here, too."

Parents are encouraged to ski with their children during the Barneløpet. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Stordahl adds that another reason for hosting the Barneløpet is to spotlight the great cross country trails in Hancock. He says that the KNSC maintains over 26 kilometers of "striding" ski trails, with grooming services from the City of Hancock.

Four courses will be groomed for the event. Relatively easy one-, two-, and four-kilometer courses will be open, as well as a more difficult six-kilometer course, which includes a descent into the Swedetown Creek gorge, though the traditional trail has been rerouted due to flood damage closures. Skiers can "stride" any of the four courses based on ability.

All youth who finish their course will be awarded a colorful Norwegian Olympic-style enameled medallion. Due to the pandemic the Chalet is closed this season though portolets will be on site.

A Barneløpet registration form can be downloaded at

If possible, please bring a completed registration form with you to the event.

UPDATE: Skis for younger skiers without skis can be reserved by calling 482-0292 no later than Feb. 17th.

For additional information, contact Wayne Stordahl at 906-482-0292 or John Diebel:

*Pronunciation guide: Barneløpet = BAR-nuh-lop-it 

KNSC acquires new grooming machine for Maasto Hiihto 

To help keep the reputation of the Copper Country as a world class destination for cross country skiing, the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club (KNSC) has acquired a new grooming machine through a funding partnership with the City of Hancock’s Recreation Millage Fund, Portage Health Foundation’s Small Grant Program and Community Foundation of the UP’s Upper Peninsula Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Fund.

The new grooming machine acquired by the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club is pictured here on the Maasto Hiihto cross country trails in Hancock. (Photo courtesy Michael Babcock, Portage Health Foundation) 

Planning for the replacement of the all-terrain utility vehicle used for trail grooming and off-season maintenance on the Maasto Hiihto ski trails in Hancock began late last winter as the previous machine was beginning to show its age.

"Reliability and operator safety are key considerations as most grooming is done in the pre-dawn hours, often in some pretty heavy weather and remote areas without cell service," said John Diebel, KNSC treasurer.

John Diebel, KNSC treasurer, is pictured here with the new grooming machine. (Photo courtesy Michael Babcock, Portage Health Foundation) 

Financing of the machine was not easy but made possible by a number of community players with an interest in maintaining quality ski trails for outdoor recreation and community health during long and snowy Keweenaw winters. The City of Hancock through its Recreation Millage Fund provided $8,750; Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club $8,709; the Portage Health Foundation $3,000; and the UP Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Fund $1,500. The balance of $35,000 for the machine and track pods came from the sale of the old machine jointly owned by the City and KNSC.

Colin Pekkala, experienced head groomer for Maasto Hiihto, operates the new grooming machine in just about any weather. (Photo courtesy Michael Babcock, Portage Health Foundation)

Diebel, who also serves on the Hancock Recreation Commission, also noted, "Through this cooperative effort the City acquired a $35,000 asset for $8,750 -- which is a very effective way to leverage the Recreation Millage Fund."

Ski, snowshoe and snow bike trails have played an even more important part in community health than usual this winter as various restrictions brought on by the pandemic have greatly increased the demand for outside activities that can be performed safely. Sales of annual passes to local ski trails are surging, Diebel reports.

The new machine was delivered in mid-September, wired for equipment control, had the track pods installed and went into service in early December on the Hancock trails.

Learn more about the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club at their Web site here: