1,000s flock to The Forks as frigid cold loosens icy grip on city

Thousands of people flooded into The Forks on Sunday as warm weather brought Winnipeggers out of hibernation.

Temperatures rose as high as –1 C in Winnipeg after several days of extreme cold, wind chills

Hundreds of people take to the ice on Sunday to skate the red River Mutual Trail at The Forks. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Thousands flooded into The Forks on Sunday as warm weather brought Winnipeggers out of hibernation.

The city saw sunshine and a high of –1 C after weeks of sub-zero temperatures in the double digits.

Cars waited in lineups to park and people were shoulder to shoulder inside The Forks Market, some waiting in line to rent skates for over an hour.

In total, about 30,000 people went to Winnipeg's meeting place Sunday, The Forks spokesperson Chelsea Thompson said Monday morning.

"That doesn't account for those visitors that may not have come inside," she said. About 22,000 people visited The Forks for New Year's Eve, she said.

The Red River Mutual Trail was packed with skaters, finally able to make use of the trail without being bundled up in layers.

"I just came out to enjoy the weather and enjoy the nice trail. It's just a really relaxing way to spend a weekend. It's such a great part of winter, being able to skate and enjoy our beautiful city," said Ian Rumbolt.
Ian Rumbolt says the river trail is a great way to see the city and enjoy winter. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Rumbolt wasn't fazed by the massive crowds and said it was great to see so many others out enjoying the mild weather.

"It's such a great place for everyone to come together and bond as a city and celebrate when it's not –30," he said.

Rumbolt was there with Hailey Campbell and her brother who was visiting from Gimli. They began their trek in Osborne Village and made their way down the Assiniboine River.

"It's really nice. It's actually enjoyable to go outside and have fun," said Campbell.
Hailey Campbell enjoys the warm weather with a skate down the frozen Assiniboine River from Osborne Village to The Forks on Sunday. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"It's nice to be able to skate to The Forks and enjoy the things that the local shops have," she said.

Keith Milar seized the opportunity to take four-year-old Gabriel out for a skate.

"It's about time to get some nice weather. Been bundled up inside too long," he said.
Keith Milar and four-year-old Gabriel check out the ice castles at The Forks. They also enjoyed some skating. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Visitors from Holland take to Winnipeg's trails

Simon Kostar is in Winnipeg with a friend visiting from Holland. The pair wanted to get out and see the city and take the opportunity to ride a fat bike, something they don't have the chance to do back home.

The fat bike gets its name from broad tires that measure 10 to 12 centimetres in width; it's used to cycle through snow.

"There's almost no snow in Holland. Our winter was one day — we had one day of snow, that's it," said Kostar.
Simon Kostar is visiting Winnipeg from Holland and says he's always wanted to try a fat bike, which he did at The Forks on Sunday. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Holland has many bike paths and trails, but most of them are paved and don't require a fat bike, he said.

Kostar was glad the weather co-operated to make his bucket-list ride happen. The cold temperatures have kept him and his friend doing most of their vacationing indoors, he said.

"Very cold, never had so much cold in Holland, so we stayed a lot inside and played games and watched ice hockey," he said.

The pair met up with Winnipegger and fat bike enthusiast Tom Kolesnik to get a guided tour.
Fat biking enthusiast Tom Kolesnik takes visitors from Holland out for a spin. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Kolesnik said he was put in touch with the Netherlanders through "a friend of a friend of a friend" and decided to show some Winnipeg hospitality to fellow fat bikers.

He said while the warm weather is great, the cold never stops them.

"Those of us hardcore Manitobans have been out all dressed up with all of our heavy-duty gear and balaclavas and we've been riding and actually having a really good time," he said.

Fat bikers use trails on and along the rivers in the city, as well as venturing to places such as Birds Hill Park and FortWhyte Alive to make use of groomed trails, he said.

The warm weather is set to stick around for a couple of days, before turning cold again by the weekend.