Limited snow won’t stop Ham Lake Snowbowl

by Eric Hagen
Staff Writer

The Ham Lake Snowbowl will go on, even if more snow does not fall when the event takes place Feb. 10 and 11.

There was no shortage of snow for the dog racing competitions at last year’s Ham Lake Snowbowl. This winter has been vastly different, so the race course may be limited to the frozen lake this year unless several more inches of snow falls. File photo by Eric Hagen

Dog sled races, skijoring and most recently the snow sculptures have become signature parts of the annual winter festival held on the frozen Ham Lake. These events obviously require snow, which has not been seen much this winter compared with last year.

Nevertheless, Snowbowl Committee Chairperson Chris Mickman said the event would not be canceled or delayed.

“No matter what happens, the show will go on,” Mickman said.

People have been riding ATVs on Ham Lake for some time now. Even though the temperatures have reached the mid-40s and up to the low-50s on one day in a recent week, the temperatures are starting to drop again, so Mickman said the ice should be thick enough to support thousands of people coming onto the ice. Many activities happen on the lake itself such as the ice fishing contest, the kids gaming area and the business and snowmobile expos.

The question the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office will help answer about a week before the event is how much heavy truck traffic can go on the lake, Mickman said. Heavy equipment is brought on to the lake to bring out the tent where event guests can escape to warm up, grab a bite to eat and learn more about local businesses.

There are also numerous vehicles coming and going from the lake, and a helicopter takes off and lands on the lake for the helicopter rides. Mickman said the sheriff’s office, which provides event security, is involved in all the Snowbowl committee meetings and would keep them updated on the thickness of the ice and what it can or cannot support.

The dog sled and skijoring races may have different routes this year, depending on how much snow is on the ground. The races typically go through the woods of Ham Lake Park, but there is not enough snow to do this now.

Mickman said another eight inches of snow are needed to open up the whole race course, but the races could take place on the frozen lake as a backup plan.

There is snow on the lake itself that could be collected and used for the snow sculpture competition, according to Mickman.

The committee knows people in the area who have access to snow making machines, so they may be utilized, Mickman said.

“We always want to make sure we have a fun and exciting event,” he said. “Snow sculpturing is one of the key events as we found out last year with businesses sponsoring snow sculptures.”

The steel sculpture that captured the essence of the Snowbowl and was created by Ham Lake artist David Estrada will be making a return appearance. This sculpture and the snow sculpture competition has been so well received that next year’s Snowbowl may include a competition that could include sculptures made of any type of material with the winter festival being the theme, according to Mickman.

The lack of wintry weather has not had a negative impact on bringing in participants for the events, Mickman said. More than 30 people signed up for the snow sculpture competition, which is a higher number than last year.

Some artists who have worked on snow sculptures at the St. Paul Winter Carnival, such as Paul Hughes, will be involved as will a group from St. Paul Technical College.

This is the second year of the snow sculpture competition. The artists start working on the sculptures the evening before the event, which this year will be Friday, Feb. 10. This evening was such a fun experience, Mickman said, so the committee decided to publicize this working day so people can see the snow sculptures starting to be created.

The sculptors are scheduled to start around noon and work until approximately 11 p.m. Mickman said a DJ will arrive between 5 and 6 p.m. and play music until 10 p.m. to provide some entertainment.

To date, approximately 400 people have registered for the ice fishing contest, according to Tim Holtz, owner of the Holtz Garden Center.

Mickman said they are on pace with previous years as far as sponsors go. They even brought in one new sponsor — Connexus Energy.

Jim Benson, president of the Midwest Skijorers Club, said registration is down slightly for the dog sled and skijoring races for the Snowbowl. He said some people did begin registering immediately through the new online entry form. Go to to register for the Snowbowl races of to find out when the club is hosting training clinics.

Benson said the club is on track with trail preparations. When Mother Nature sends some snow, the club will be even busier preparing for the races, he said.

The medallion hunt will once again be part of the Snowbowl event. The first clue will be revealed Feb. 6.

To sign up for a competition or be a sponsor, contact the Ham Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at 763-434-3011 or call Mickman at 763-434-4678.

Snowbowl button required

Snowbowl buttons have been made in previous years, but for the first time this year, people will need to buy a $3 Snowbowl button to go to the Snowbowl.

Mickman said the Snowbowl committee wants a higher profile event. It wants more prizes for competitors and it wants to be able to reimburse the city of Ham Lake for expenses the city incurs to help put on the event.

The committee also wants the Ham Lake Area Chamber of Commerce to be able to collect more revenue that can be donated to the community during the year. The chamber, through charitable gambling funds, has helped pay for the Ham Laker newsletter and the Fourth of July fireworks, for example.

“Three dollars is a nominal fee to come out and have all that excitement,” Mickman said.

Snowbowl buttons can be purchased from most businesses in Ham Lake.

Buying a Snowbowl button will get more than a parking spot and entrance to the event. It will get one free guess as to when Estrada’s steel sculpture will fall through the ice of Ham Lake. Additional guesses cost $2 or eight guesses can be purchased for $10. The winner receives $500.

Last year, one guess cost $5 and six guesses cost $20, so participation in this contest will cost less this year. The sculpture broke through the ice last year at 3 p.m. April 8.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]