It’s not called Mani-snow-ba or Winter-peg for nothing – winter is a fact of life in Manitoba and the normally cold season is the basis for many outdoor activities. The weather doesn’t always cooperate though.
The snowmobiling scene in Manitoba looks quite different in some areas of the province than it did this time last year.
About 200 kilometers northeast of Winnipeg near Minnow Lake, a machine used to groom snowmobiling trails broke through the ice. Fortunately both workers were OK.
“They check the ice about every half a kilometer,” Brad Wall, president of Lee River Snow Riders said. “They get out with a chainsaw and different tools to check the ice thickness. But they came around a point on the lake and the ice started to break and the machine sunk in on the passenger side.”
Unseasonably mild temperatures around Manitoba are having other effects as well.
While rivers and lakes have frozen over, ice is not as thick, and it came later than it has in past years.
The weather is delaying the grooming of some trails for sledding, but a new free ice fishing village and skating rink in Lockport is embracing the moderate conditions.
“It’s actually been great for us so far this year,” Red River Cats owner Eric Stone said. “The weather has been so mild it’s allowed us to put up signs and clear roads. It’s actually been fantastic for us.”
Stone’s hoping the weather will allow his village to stay open until March.
No matter the winter activity, whether it’s skating, fishing or sledding, firefighters have some safety reminders.
“It does cause other issues with the weather being so warm,” Selkirk Fire Department chief Dave Milner said. “The ice gets a little bit softer, you tend to get a bit more water sitting on top of the ice, people get stuck, people start to panic sometimes.”
So far this year, the volunteer firefighters in Selkirk haven’t had to respond to any thin-ice calls.
“We are prepared for it but with the weather being like this, the ice conditions change so fast with the (river) current, it’s hard to judge,” Milner said. “You need to go out there and take a look before you drive on the river.”
Milner also suggests snowmobiling with a buddy, wearing a floatation suit and dressing for the temperatures.
As for the sledders, even though the weather has caused a delay in their chance to hit the trails, they remain excited.
“It will slow us down but it won’t stop up,” Wall said.
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