How the “Icebox of the Nation” Deals with Winter

International Falls, Rainier & Rainy Lake CVB

If you think your win­ter is cold, imag­ine liv­ing in a city dubbed “The Ice­box of the Nation.”  The place is Inter­na­tion­al Falls, Min­neso­ta, a city so cold it has been called the cold­est city in Amer­i­ca many times over. Sit­ting on the bor­der between the U.S. and Cana­da, this scenic city in north­ern Min­neso­ta is not just some frozen waste­land where win­ter rules all. Win­ter in Inter­na­tion­al Falls is a time for cel­e­bra­tion, a sea­son where snow-laden cit­i­zens do their best to keep toasty and active.

To give some good per­spec­tive on your own win­ter wor­ries, Faye Whit­back, Inter­na­tion­al Falls Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent, is hap­py to give some insight on how one of the cold­est cities around embraces Old Man Winter.

The Clymb: With a win­ter sea­son span­ning 4–5 months and aver­age tem­per­a­tures from Novem­ber to Feb­ru­ary float­ing around 26º Fahren­heit (as well as 71 inch­es of snow), what are some of the dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties res­i­dents of Inter­na­tion­al Falls take part in dur­ing the winter?

Faye Whit­back: Of course hock­ey is hot in Inter­na­tion­al Falls. Ice fish­ing is a giv­en and a col­or­ful ice house cul­ture thrives on our frozen Rainy Lake (the 63rd largest fresh-water lake in the world). Rainy Lake is a huge area and with portable equip­ment, spots to fish are unlim­it­ed. Cross-coun­try ski­ing, snow­shoe­ing, snow­mo­bil­ing and ATV rid­ing are a big part of our win­ter life as well. There are prob­a­bly at least 10 miles of trails with­in Voyageurs Nation­al Park (the nation’s only 100 per­cent water-based Nation­al Park), and out­side of Voyageurs NP, there’s at least anoth­er eight miles of cross-coun­try ski­ing in the area.

International Falls, Rainier & Rainy Lake CVB

The Clymb: Win­ter in Inter­na­tion­al Falls seems to cul­mi­nate with the annu­al Ice­box Days. What are some of the events and activ­i­ties offered by this fes­ti­val which is now enter­ing its 36th year running?

FW:  Much of the world has heard about our Ice­box Days win­ter fes­ti­val, with the sig­na­ture event the “Freeze Yer Giz­zard Bliz­zard Run.” It’s been fea­tured on every major net­work, and many cable chan­nels. Our win­ter needs this wacky fes­ti­val packed full of orig­i­nal events for vis­it­ing “Giz­zard” run­ners and fam­i­lies. Com­mu­ni­ty guests and res­i­dents are all encour­aged to try frozen turkey bowl­ing, the chili cook-off, local­ly-invent­ed “smoosh” board races, moon­light snow­shoe­ing in Voyageurs Nation­al Park and, new this year, a golf game on Rainy Lake. Exhil­a­rat­ing fire­works under the win­ter sky are staged Sat­ur­day evening near Smokey Bear Park. Every­one is warm­ly wel­comed to the Ice­box of the Nation Jan. 14–17 for the 36th amaz­ing year of Ice­box Days and the Freeze Yer Giz­zard Bliz­zard Run.

The Clymb: The “Freeze Yer Giz­zard Bliz­zard Run” sounds like it’s a fun (and cold) time. What is it that makes this event so spe­cial and what dri­ves peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in such a cold win­ter weath­er activity?

FW: The Giz­zard race is held in the tra­di­tion­al­ly cold­est week­end of the year and has nev­er been can­celled in 35 years. It’s an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence in which 300 or more run­ners come to earn the title “Only the Bold Run the Cold.” While at least half the races have been held in below zero temps, even grade-school­ers to octo­ge­nar­i­an par­tic­i­pate. The bold­est often arrive in cos­tume and there’s always a few wear­ing, well, hard­ly anything—exposing limbs with implied supe­ri­or­i­ty. There’ve been bum­ble­bees, bal­leri­nas, and bois­ter­ous birds among oth­er fun-lov­ing brag­gado­cios. But there’s more you need to know about those who earn “the bold;” they seem to be inhab­it­ed with a love for run­ning and nature that’s so robust they can’t help but par­tic­i­pate in this joy­ous win­ter resilience.

International Falls, Rainier & Rainy Lake CVB

The Clymb: While win­ter seems to be pret­ty syn­ony­mous with Inter­na­tion­al Falls, the oth­er three sea­sons are full of crisp autumn col­ors, warm sum­mer breezes, and sweet-smelling spring thaws. Which sea­son is your favorite, and would you say win­ter is the best?

FW: We don’t try to con­vince folks that win­ter is bet­ter than sum­mer. With sum­mers like ours, that would be sil­ly. What we do is cel­e­brate winter’s char­ac­ter with resilien­cy and fun. We encour­age Moth­er Nature to do a lit­tle dance with Old Man Win­ter. Embrace it. Life goes on and spend­ing time in a snowy won­der­land where cheeks turn pink and noses go numb isn’t so bad, it can even be exhilarating.

Must See Dur­ing Win­ter in Inter­na­tion­al Falls

Rainy Lake Area
Dubbed as the head­quar­ters to Voyageurs Nation­al Park, the Rainy Lake Area is your one-stop des­ti­na­tion for every win­ter recre­ation­al activ­i­ty out­side of down­hill ski­ing. Whether you find your­self cross-coun­try ski­ing, ice fish­ing, snow­mo­bil­ing, or just enjoy­ing the white win­ter blan­ket views of Minnesota’s snow-clad wilder­ness, you can rough it or stay at one of the many cab­ins and vaca­tion homes that sur­round this his­toric site.

Voyageurs Nation­al Park
Locat­ed in the heart of the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent, Voyageurs Nation­al Park is the nation’s only water-based Nation­al Park, and Inter­na­tion­al Falls is your gate­way to the excite­ment. Although Voyageurs is most pop­u­lat­ed in the sum­mer months, the win­ter pro­vides a sur­plus of snow activ­i­ties to find the soli­tude and blood-pump­ing bliss only offered in the cold­er months.

Ice­box Days 2016 — Jan­u­ary 14–17
Ice­box Days is the annu­al win­ter fes­ti­val in Inter­na­tion­al Falls. It takes every­thing that’s great about win­ter and crams it into a long week­end full of snow-fed activ­i­ty. This past year fea­tured recre­ation­al and com­mu­ni­ty activ­i­ties such as a wing eat­ing con­test, pub crawl, moon­light snow­shoe­ing, pan­cake break­fasts, frozen turkey bowl­ing, fire­works, and of course the infa­mous “Freeze Yer Giz­zard Bliz­zard Run.”