There is a lot that’s great about Minnesota winters. The frosted, snowy tips of trees. The swoosh of skis across a quiet, muted landscape. The play of light across icy surfaces, and across the sky on cold, crisp days. The plethora of snow and ice related activities. The slower pace and bundled-up, coziness of the season. This year, a new festival aims to honor all of that and the central role that winter plays in Minnesota culture.
We’re excited about the Great Northern, taking place January 27-February 5 around Minneapolis and St. Paul because it provides us with an opportunity to both celebrate and reflect on Minnesota winters. At a time when our state’s winters are warming faster than anywhere else in the country, this season is no longer something we can take for granted – at least, not in the ways that we used to know it. Anyone who’s lived in Minnesota for a while will tell stories of epic winters past, and most folks have already intuited that a change is happening before their eyes: a rainy Christmas, freeze-thaw cycles that disrupt outdoor recreation, later ice-in and earlier ice-out dates. These stories are common.
Data from the climate science world confirms this truth: winters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region have warmed 1.1ºF per decade since the 1970s. Graphs, charts and maps such as the ones above reflect the new reality on paper. On the ground, these warmer winters generate a diverse array of impacts and feelings among communities and individuals. For a business like Askov Finlayson, which revels in the opportunities presented by the frozen North, these changes sparked their Keep The North Cold campaign, and their engagement in climate change solutions via their support of our work. This year, their full-hearted embrace of the winter season led them to co-found the Great Northern.
The 10-day Great Northern festival illuminates so many of the wonderful winter traditions that Minnesota has to offer. From culinary-themed events designed to warm the soul, to sporting events like the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships and the City of Lakes Loppet, the Great Northern offers a suite of unique winter experiences that help define Minnesota’s cultural identity. This is a state where it seems more common than not to meet people who are both willing and excited to be out in the best (or worst) of Minnesota’s winter weather. Where, rather than hibernate, Minnesotans enthusiastically recreate all year round. This Maryland girl has never seen so many fat bikes, Nordic skis, snowshoes and ice shanties, all together demonstrating the vibrancy of winter life in The North.
Minnesota, recently ranked by Thrillist as the #1 state for most miserable winters, seems to view this designation with pride rather than pain. But are the iconic winters that landed us that status already a thing of the past?
The Great Northern manifesto.