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Crazy for Winter

Snow comes in heavy doses to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Meet people who embrace this season, and learn how you can enjoy it, too.

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Little Girl's Point

Watercolorist

Ice and snow cover the 129 steep, wooden steps. Peg Sandin is small and well-insulated in a down jacket that stops just above her knees. Her face peeks through a fur-trimmed hood. She carefully negotiates the descent, mittened hands braced against the wooden rail counteracting the unreliable relationship between boots and ice. When she gets to the spot where the stairs have drifted apart, creating a gap over a foot wide, she jumps, then continues, as usual, to her purpose: today's view of Lake Superior.

Peg spent 30 years painting watercolors of Superior, finding ways beyond sailboats and lighthouses to depict its beauty, before it occurred to her to do so in winter. "You always think of the lake as big and blue," she says. "I went down in winter, and it was a whole different view, a whole different palette of colors."

That was in January 2003 and the beginning of a yearlong wintertime ritual. A few times a week, 45 minutes before sunset, Peg bundled up and tackled those backyard steps. She'd snap pictures, rather than haul painting gear into the cold, then spend as much quality time with the lake as she could tolerate (not always long on days when the windchill knocked temperatures down to minus 60). Back in the warmth of her home studio, Peg studied the photos and painted, sometimes with moody blues and greens, other times with sweet pinks and yellows. Her series, "My Ice World," debuted last February.

Winter views are now integrated into her study of the lake. They are her favorite for their diversity. She describes, with wonder, rising steam, frozen land-like water, and gleaming piles of broken ice. From shore, she admires today's view of dark water dappled with snow-topped bergs. "It's my life's goal to paint my feelings about the lake," she says. "And I have endless inspiration." From within the furry frame of her hood, Peg's smile is, like her muse, big and strong.

Admire the UP

The Pine Tree Gallery, on US-2 in Ironwood. Since 1975, features craftmakers and artists, such as Peg Sandin, from the upper Great Lakes region. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. (906-932-5120)

Black River Crossing Bed and Breakfast, outside Bessemer. Spacious, new, luxurious log home in the woods, features Peg Sandin's artwork. (www.blackrivercrossing.com)

Fitzgerald's Restaurant, Eagle River, Keweenaw Peninsula. The only UP restaurant right on Lake Superior. Fine dining featuring seafood, wild game, steaks, pasta, and chicken. Reservations recommended for winter gourmet tasting dinner, date to be determined. (www.eagleriverinn.com/2/eagle/fitz.html)

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