Taking the chill off: Proposed Saskatoon budget includes temporary warming huts

Saskatoon city council is hoping to beef up the city's winter strategy with an injection of $350,000.

City to follow in Edmonton's footsteps, inject $350k into Winter City Strategy

Some are able to embrace winter on their own, but the City of Saskatoon wants to help those who usually hibernate in the colder months to get out and enjoy what the season has to offer. (City of Saskatoon )

Saskatoon winters are long and enduring, like the grudges residents and visitors sometimes hold against the season.

City council is hoping to change that perception and help people enjoy the colder months by beefing up the city's winter strategy with an injection of $350,000 in its 2018 budget.

We'll be working in a collaborative way to come up with the best strategy so that people can feel like every month of the year is a good month to live in Saskatoon.- Mayor Charlie Clark

The funds will go towards "engagement and awareness measures and small-scale initiatives" that will move the city towards its goal of becoming a winter city.

The budget includes specific mentions of "temporary warming huts" and "pop-up/mobile infrastructure" at Saskatoon winter events and festivals.

"I know in Winnipeg at The Forks, they've taken these temporary warming huts to a pretty significant level with help from the school of architecture there," said Brent Penner, the executive director of the downtown Saskatoon business association.

Penner said he could see similar huts on the Meewasin Trail, in Kinsmen Park, and at the farmer's market in Riversdale.

Larger winter strategy

Saskatoon has some winter programming already, which the city will presumably build upon. PotashCorp WinterShines is a draw, and includes several days of events.

The city asked citizens earlier this year for their input on how to become more winter-focused and shared the results. Some ideas include heated sidewalks, creating walkable spaces for pedestrians to shield them from the wind, and providing more indoor parking lots.

The money set aside in the budget will also be used to focus temporary staffing support on the project — drafting guidelines and developing policies for the winter strategy.

"One of the biggest challenges in Saskatoon to create vibrancy and attract people and to keep our citizens excited about our city is winter," said Mayor Charlie Clark.

"With the budget allocation, the money we spend, we'll be working in a collaborative way to come up with the best strategy so that people can feel like every month of the year is a good month to live in Saskatoon."

Following Edmonton's lead

A sign welcomes skaters to the Freezeway, a 400-metre pilot project in Victoria Park in Edmonton. (CBC/John Robertson)

Another Western city has already undergone the transformation. It's been a long but successful road towards becoming a winter city for Edmonton, several years into its strategy already.

The city began to collaborate with local businesses and residents in 2012, and most recently implemented winter design guidelines, which aim to cut down on winter hibernation and bring people out of their homes.

The guidelines focus on strategies to block wind, exposure to sunshine, and colour to liven up the city.

Edmonton also hosts Winter Cities Shake-Up conference, which focuses exclusively on the subject.


Bridget Yard is the producer of CBC's Up North. She previously worked for CBC in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan as a video journalist and later transitioned to feature storytelling and radio documentaries.