French bistro embraces winter in Edmonton with snow patio

EDMONTON – During winter in Edmonton, many residents love nothing more than staying indoors where it’s warm. But a small bistro in the city’s French quarter is hoping to change that mentality by bringing the bistro outdoors to its winter patio.

“We’re in Edmonton and we have a lot of snow this year,” said Daniel Cournoyer, Executive Director of La Cité Francophone. “Why just take snow and complain about it? Why not shape it and do something with it?”

And that’s exactly what Café Bicyclette has done – created its own outdoor snow patio.

“When it’s minus 30 for a week or two, when it comes to minus 10 it all of a sudden feels really nice outside,” Cournoyer said as he sat on the patio Sunday afternoon.

With the help of snow artist Matt Vest, all of the snow that’s fallen over the past several weeks has been “harvested” and carved into a semicircular snow wall. Match that with cast iron fireplaces, heating lamps, tables, and heated chairs, and you’ve got yourself a picturesque winter dining experience.

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“Once the sun comes around the building here we’ll be in full sun. And it’ll be quite pleasant,” Cournoyer said. “And with our nice snow wall here, we’re actually trapping in some of the heat and we’re creating a little environment, a little microclimate if you can say.”

The outdoor patio is supported by the City of Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy, which is aimed at transforming Edmonton into a world-leading winter city and getting Edmontonians to embrace the season.

“I’m quite enthusiastic about it. I think we need to inspire from countries like Norway, and Northern Europe where people do find ways to get outside and embrace the winter,” Cournoyer said. “I think we’ve created too much of this climate of wanting to stay inside… maybe we’ve got to get out from in front of our TVs and enjoy the winter.”

READ MORE: City encourages Edmontonians to embrace winter

La Cite began harvesting snow last winter when it produced The Flying Canoe Adventure, which is an illuminated nighttime adventure walk through Mill Creek Ravine.

Cournoyer says La Cite is also working on creating a cross country skiing track that will circle the building. It’s just another initiative to get Edmontonians outside, enjoying winter.

“We can’t stay inside forever.”

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