EDMONTON- Edmonton prides itself on being a winter city, but above seasonal temperatures and little snow so far this year, organizers of winter events and activities are starting to sweat.
The Canadian Birkebeiner traditionally showcases the best cross-country ski racers, but this year the event has been cancelled.
“There’s just not enough snow to be able to run a safe an enjoyable event,” said general manager Glenda Hanna. “The forecast is not calling for sufficient snow to give us any optimism that we could forge ahead at this stage.”
The event was supposed to run February 12 and 13 in Strathcona County, but organizers decided it wasn’t worth risking it on icy trails.
“We don’t want people to get hurt or damage their skis and we want them to have fun. It’s not fun if the conditions are marginal, and right now they’re marginal at best.”
Even the capital city’s first ever ice castle is starting to melt.
“The sun is probably more damaging for us than the temperatures,” said lead artisan Cory Livingood. “It’ll make the ice porous, it’ll make it soft.”
Staff designed key features like ice thrones and slides on shaded, north-facing walls, hoping to extend their viability into March. But they admit there are no guarantees – they can’t control mother nature.
“We basically have to play it by ear. Safety is definitely first and if it gets to the point where we’re worried about anything, we will close early.”
On the other side of Hawrelak Park, preparations are already under way for the Silver Skate Festival. Organizers there are concerned about warm temperatures too.
“We’re not really liking the long-term forecast right now,” said festival producer Erin DiLoreto.
Silver Skate kicks off on Friday, but already steps are being taken to protect what little snow and ice they have.
“Insulated tarps become our friend,” said DiLoreto. “So we’ll wrap them and try to ensure as much longevity as possible.”
Snow blocks for the snow sculpture symposium are made of man-made snow and have already been dropped off on site. They will remain in their wooden crates in an attempt to avoid melting.
The ice on the lake at Hawrelak was in good condition Sunday, with dozens of skaters taking advantage of the sun.
DiLoreto said that is one positive… “If it is nice weather, we will be busy. Edmontonians want to get outside when the sun is shining.”
Snow Valley doesn’t need to rely on mother nature to open its lifts.
“At the beginning of the year we make all the snow that we need for the season and it lasts us all the way through to the beginning of April,” said Brandon Pedersen, the hill’s marketing assistant.
So far, that hard work is paying off.
“Conditions here are really great considering the weather lately,” Pedersen explained. “We groom the hill every night and get rid of the ice.”
But the weather is still providing a challenge.
“With the city being so dry and brown it’s difficult to get people to think snow and get down here,” he said.Follow @SarahNKraus
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