Winnipeg shows winter cities how it's done at Edmonton conference

Winnipeg’s winter lessons are being shared at an urban design gathering in Edmonton.

‘We have a lot of chops when it comes to how to get outside in the winter’ says CEO of The Forks

Anish Kapoor's Stackhouse warming hut is a popular stop on the Winnipeg river trail. The 72-tonne sculpture is made entirely of stacked ice blocks harvested from the Red River. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Lessons from Winnipeg's winters are being shared at an urban design gathering in Edmonton.

"Winnipeg is a winter city so we have a lot of chops when it comes to how to get outside in the winter," said Paul Jordan, The Forks CEO.

The Winter City Shakeup conference explores how urban design in planning can make winter more enjoyable, and how events and get people outside to embrace the winter weather.

"There are a lot of lessons being traded back and forth and Winnipeg is standing right with all of them," Jordan said.

In his presentation, Jordan showcased all the different winter activities at The Forks from the skating trail and warming huts to Festival Du Voyageur and RAW: almond.

Jordan said with the increase in icy activities there has also been a massive increase in attendance during the city's most frigid months.

"We are seeing our winter numbers, attendance numbers as high as our summer numbers," he said.

The Forks CEO Paul Jordan says Winnipeg has lessons about how to enjoy winter. (Pierre Verriere/Radio-Canada)
In February 2016, more than 324,000 people attended The Forks, nearly as many as the 341,000 that stopped by in June, one of the more popular months.

Jordan said The Forks lesson for other winter cities is that the exciting adventures that happen in Winnipeg aren't top-down ideas.

"What most people are doing is, because they are not quite sure what to do, they are doing a lot of planning and not a lot of doing," he said.

Instead, Winnipeg has focused on helping to facilitate the ideas coming from people in the city. The warming huts and pop-up restaurant were ideas from citizens, but it does come at a cost. Jordan added that they are still trying to learn how to monetize some of the activities to build revenue to invest back into creative winter projects and activities.

However, the recent surge in warm weather in Manitoba has put a damper on some the wintry plans.  The Red River Mutual Trail is closed until further notice. Skating rinks at The Forks also closed Friday and are now shut down for the season.

"People are really gravitating and flocking down to use the winter amenities and when they start to melt it really defeats the whole purpose," Jordan said.

But it's Winnipeg, so the cold will always returns — and Jordan said they are preparing for other icy ideas to get people to embrace the cold.