Welcome to Winter City

Many firsts and record-setting events take place on the frozen Red and Assiniboine Rivers in Winnipeg

By Brenlee Coates

When your winters can last half the year, you kind of have to embrace them.

Winnipeggers are not only resilient, but ultra-creative, and they’ve combined the two to offer some unique experiences on top of their frozen surfaces.

The Red River Mutual Trail, accessible from The Forks, holds the world record as the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world.

In the depths of winter, the cold wind might deter some from hitting the trail, but what if you could get frequent relief while taking in an unconventional art exhibit?

Enter the warming huts
Each year, juries select designs for artistic shelters from submissions that pour in from all over the world. For 2015, two huts and one art installation are from international submissions, one is the winner of a competition at the University of Manitoba, and one is designed by a solicited architect.

The opportunity to see international artists’ interpretations of functional warming huts along the frozen Red and Assiniboine Rivers is truly one-of-a-kind.

Skate rentals are available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. all winter from The Forks Market Atrium for just $3 for children and seniors, and $5 for adults.

Arctic Glacier Winter Park

(Photo from theprojector.ca)
(Photo from theprojector.ca)

Winnipeg really is “the winter city,” and The Forks may be the biggest proponent of its charms.

Not only does it link to the longest skating trail, but it turns into a full-on arctic park for the season.

For easy pleasure skating, a canopy near The Forks Market lets you enjoy music while you circle its rink. Programming on the weekends sometimes includes popular DJs providing the beats under the canopy.

An Olympic-sized skating rink is located next to the Festival Park Stage for pleasure skating and pick-up hockey games, plus hockey and curling can be played on the river trail rinks. You can also take in all the elements of the winter park by following its 1.2 km of trails that link most of its components together.

(Photo by Gayl Punzalan)
(Photo by Gayl Punzalan)

If skating isn’t your thing, a snowboard park features a variety of jumps, table tops, fun-boxes and rails. A toboggan hill backs off the Inn at The Forks offering sliding good times.

Curling bonspiels, winter biking races, Festival du Voyageur programming throughout February (another must-do in Winnipeg) and ongoing events take place at The Forks to make it one of the city’s top winter destinations. Visit theforks.com/events for a list of available programming.

Dinner on the river
If you work up an appetite, there is also the pop-up restaurant located on the frozen river. RAW:almond is open to the public for breakfast on weekends, and has multiple dinner seatings each night during its three-week run.

The idea came from local chef and owner of deer + almond, Mandel Hitzer, and Joe Kalturnyk of RAW:Gallery of Architecture & Design, and brings Winnipeg’s most celebrated chefs together to provide a fine dining experience like no other. Tickets fly for this event – the first-of-its-kind anywhere.

In January 2015, the winning design for the restaurant by British studio OS31 will take shape where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet. Walk or skate up from The Forks to take a peek at the structure, or grab tickets for the coveted five-course meal at a communal table on the historic confluence of the rivers.