Alger County offers great outdoors events

Ol’ Man Winter once again threw us a curve this week with blowing snow and frigid temperatures, but that shouldn’t keep Upper Peninsula residents from enjoying the outdoors.

In fact, the weather of late is just right for a couple outdoor events that are coming during February, including one getting under way today and running through Sunday.

The Michigan Ice Fest kicked off this morning with the first of many workshops and demonstrations centered around the exciting sport of climbing large columns of frozen seepage off cliffs.

Serving as the venue for the climbing is 200-foot sandstone cliffs off Sand Point Road at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, just outside Munising. Festival officials call the site “an ice climbers paradise.”

Included in activities are classes on climbing, top rope anchor and rigging-rescue, as well as climbing demonstrations and presentations.

Included among speakers are Zoe Hart, an American who lives in France and has climbed several major mountain peaks in North America and Europe, and Will Gadd, a Canadian who is a World Cup and Winter X Games ice climbing champion.

Headquarters for the festival is Sydney’s Restaurant, where most of the classes and presentations will be and rental climbing equipment is available.

In fact, event organizer Bill Thompson of Downwind Sports in Marquette said even though some of the top climbers in the world will be at the festival, a major focus of it is to provide newcomers to the sport the opportunity to give it a try.

The full schedule of events can be found on the festival website at

Munising and the rest of Alger County offer wonderful opportunities for enjoying the outdoors in the winter, with another big sporting event passing through a good portion of the county in a few weeks.

The event will be the U.P. 200 Sled Dog Championships, which include races leaving Marquette Feb. 15 and heading into the Alger County communities of Chatham, Wetmore, Munising and Grand Marais.

All the locations offer spectating opportunities as well as a long layover of mushers and their dog teams in Grand Marais on Feb. 16.

These two weekends will be a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the U.P. winter while experiencing a couple exciting sports.