Finding snow in Manitoba in January is not typically a problem but a mild winter has made that a challenge in some parts.


Mild weather has delayed the opening of Manitoba's winter road system for remote communities. ((CBC))

Several cross-country ski trails in the province are idle, waiting on more snow pack, while Winnipeg's famed skating trail on the Assiniboine River is marked with orange pylons to direct skaters away from soft spots.

The trail, which is supposed to stretch from the national historic site at The Forks to the Assiniboine Park, is less than half that distance.

Water is flowing across the trail's path west of the Hugo dock.

Meanwhile, organizers at Winnipeg's annual Festival du Voyageur have been scouring the city for clean, white snow to pack into massive blocks to be sculpted and put on display during the 10-day cultural event, which runs Feb. 12 to 21.

Trucks have been able to haul snow from a few different locations in the city but organizers are hoping for more snow this weekend.

Environment Canada is forecasting a 60 per cent chance of flurries for Saturday but the above-normal temperatures will also continue at least until next week.

Temperatures above normal

Winnipeggers have been shedding their warm woollies over the past couple of weeks as the mercury has risen anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees above normal, pushing well above freezing on some days.

Normal temperatures for this time of year in the city are a high of –13 C and a low of –23 C, according to Environment Canada.

The forecast for the remainder of this week calls for daytime highs ranging from –4 C to –1 C.

Festival du Voyageur marketing director Emili Bellefleur says temperatures below zero are necessary to keep sculptures intact.

The snow carving is supposed to begin in the last week in January but if temperatures are above zero, it could be delayed. Organizers would instead leave the snow inside the crates to keep it packed tight until some more arctic-like air moves in.

"As long as the blocks are not sculpted, we have sort of a protection. What happens is that a shell creates around the snow block, and the snow inside the block remains in good condition to be sculpted," said Bellefleur.

If the promised snowfall doesn't come this weekend, the festival will turn to a snow-making machine as a back-up plan, she said.

"It's on stand by. But as I said, right now, we have pushed that Plan B aside," she said.

Ice roads delayed

The mild weather has also delayed the opening of Manitoba's winter road system for remote communities.

Brochet, a community near the border Manitoba shares with Nunavut, just opened its winter road — the first northern community in the province to do so, said Larry Halayko, contract engineer with Manitoba Transportation.

About 22 other communities are waiting to get their roads opened throughout the week but more snow is needed in a few areas first, he said.

"Certainly, on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, we could use a little bit more."

The roads are created over frozen bodies of water, giving those remote fly-in communities temporary driving access.

The winter-road network a lifeline to many First Nations, enabling trucks to bring in a year's worth of food, fuel and supplies over the next few weeks.

The trail-like roads cross bogs, marshes, lakes, and rivers and stretch about 2,200 kilometres in all.

They are usually open for about eight weeks.