Construction of outdoor snow chapel warms up this community each year

Altar, walls, all carved out of snow each year at festival

Courtesy photo. (St. Albert the Great University Parish)

Nobody at this church complains about it being cold during the service, because they know what they are getting into beforehand.

Since 2016, students at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, located in the far northwest corner of the Upper Peninsula, have helped construct a chapel made entirely out of snow.

The chapel is constructed weeks before the annual Winter Carnival at the school, which this year takes place from Wednesday through Sunday.

“Constructing a chapel out of snow and ice is not something you get to do every day,” said Teresa Hoving, a junior at Michigan Tech. “Some of my favorite things about the build process are meeting new people and stomping down the snow in the forms.”

The school likes to dub itself as the snowiest campus in America, given an average of 200 inches of snow falls in the area during a typical winter.

“Building the Ice Chapel is definitely a good mix of fun and work,” Hoving said. “I love working together with friends and seeing it all come together, but I always end up feeling sore afterward.”

Built in conjunction with St. Albert the Great University Parish, the chapel then hosts multiple masses as part of the Winter Carnival each year, where patrons worship during outdoor services in the winter weather.

To view a mass from last year’s festival, watch the video below.

In the weeks leading up to the carnival, a team of students and community members come together to build the chapel using plywood, shovels, buckets and plenty of snow.

Visit this webpage to view a series of photos on the construction for the chapel that will be used for this year’s services.

One of the services will be livestreamed on Facebook on Friday at 5:30 p.m. EST. You may visit to register for the link.

Courtesy photo (St. Albert the Great University Parish)

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Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.