Manitoba

The Forks river trail officially opens

Get your skates sharpened up Winnipeg, The Forks river trail is open for the season.

More sections of ice expected to open in coming weeks

Ange Eilers takes her kids, Kate and Steven to skate the trail as often as possible during the winter. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC News)

Get your skates sharpened up Winnipeg, The Forks river trail is open for the season.

While the rink on the port at The Forks opened just prior to the new year, a nearly two-kilometre stretch of the trail was officially opened up along the Assiniboine River Friday.

Winnipegger Ange Eilers and her son and daughter were among the first to take to the ice.

"Skating on a skating rink is one thing, but being on a river — being on natural ice and taking in the scenery around you — it's really amazing and we should all be doing more of it," said Eilers, who lives near the river and says the family regularly takes to the trail every winter.

"Whenever I'm here I can't stop smiling because it's such a wonderful place to be."

Executive Director of The Forks, Claire MacKay hopes to extend the trail out to the Exchange District one day. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

The  groomed trail is currently open from The Forks to the Osborne Street Bridge on the Assiniboine, and to Queen Elizabeth Way on the Red River.

Claire MacKay, executive director of The Forks Foundation says more of the trail will open as conditions allow.

"We had a really cold December, so that means a lot of the freezing that we needed for the thickness of the ice has happened already," she said before hitting the trail herself Friday.

"We're looking like we're going to have a great season."

How far will it go?

MacKay says the Jan. 4 opening date is on par with the time of year the trail normally opens every winter.

Factors including water levels, current and temperature play a role in when the trail opens and how far it goes, explains MacKay, who says it's too soon to say how long the trail will get this year.

"We can go forever, it's just temperature, time and sometimes budget that stops us from continuing on all the way to Headingley," said MacKay, who added she'd like to see the trail stretch all the way to the Exchange District.

"We'd really like to connect to that community, because that's what this does — it connects us to different communities that may not be connected during the summer months."

Skaters hit the ice at the River Trail at The Forks for the first time in 2019. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC News)

MacKay said last year's 10-kilometre of trail set a record, and on some weekends the attraction brought nearly 50,000 people on the ice — which rivals numbers seen at The Forks in July.

"I think that we really own that we have a winter and we no longer hibernate or try to avoid it," said MacKay.

"It's just a really great way to enjoy the winter."

Ice conditions and additional trail openings can be found on The Forks' website.

Winnipeg's iconic skating trail on the Assiniboine River opened Friday. 1:59