The City of Winnipeg is preparing to clear the snow on the Assiniboine River for a natural ice skating trail expected to once again break world records.
Winnipeg's river trail officially beat out Ottawa in February to earn the title of the longest natural ice skating trail in the world in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The 8.5 kilometers of trail on the Assiniboine River bested the 7.8 km skateway on Ottawa's Rideau Canal.
Paul Jordan, chief operating officer with the Forks-North Portage Partnership Corp. said that work will begin on the weekend to begin clearing a trail along the Assiniboine.
It is expected the 2009 trail will run more than nine km from the national historic site at the Forks to Assiniboine Park.
In 2008, the trail went from Omand's Creek on the river to the Forks and then went another 2.5 km along the Red River.
"We think if we could have that [Assiniboine Park] as the other end of the trail and the bookend of the Forks … it would be such a magnificent trail," Jordan said.
It will mean skaters will have access to two tourist destinations in the city at both ends of their skate, he said.
Workers will be out with hand shovels and light equipment cleaning the snow off the river, he said.
Heavier equipment will then begin clearing work in January with the goal of having the trail ready for skaters by the end of the month, he said.
The river trail is expected to cost about $215,000 during its 2009 season, Jordan said.
Jordan said the world record win has flustered some of the canal organizers in Ottawa and making the river trail even longer may upset the National Capital Commission further.
The longest, not the largest
"They phoned our communications person last week just to once more go over the whole thing," he said, "that they are the largest. We've never claimed we are the largest. We've just claimed that we're the longest — so we've got the certificate to prove it. If they'd like to challenge that, they can try to make theirs longer."
Ottawa has continued to claim the canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as the largest naturally frozen ice skating surface in the world.
The length of the canal offers a wider path for skaters compared with the four-metre wide path on Winnipeg's river. When the entire canal skateway freezes, its ice surface totals 165,621 square metres, which is the equivalent of 90 Olympic size hockey rinks.
Winnipeg's river trail had a surface of about 34,160 square metres in 2008.
There are two paths on the river: an ice path, which is cleared and groomed for skating, and a footpath. The footpath is also open to skiers, snowshoers and cyclists.