Having fun is easy for some, impossible for others. Having fun outside is easy, most of the time. However, by –20C, that may pose some difficulties.

Curling!

At The Forks in Winnipeg, the fun is always there, for whoever wants to participate. And to keep a bit warm, it’s best to participate in ye olde fashioned games of The Voyageurs…

So who are these Voyageurs? They are the original travellers in Canada. However, even for them, this January was a bit too much. Three Saturday’s of Outdoor Fun were cancelled due to excessive wind chill. True, it’s not easy to have fun by a temperature that feels like –45C.

But this weekend, the activities were au rendez-vous. From ice painting to curling on natural ice, everything was there.

Water on the ice… flooded or thin ice?Water on the ice… flooded or thin ice?

The ice was great, even if there was a little water on it here and there. I don’t know if that was from artificial flooding or from the two days of above zero temperatures we have had here this week.

So these voyageurs…

Ice paintingIce painting

The voyageurs are “responsible” for most of the children’s activities. Ice painting, ice sculpting and Inukshuk building are activities for the kids. But also there is story-telling in the tipis and a few other games. All free and what’s even better, for all there is free hot chocolate in case you got too cold.

RocksRocks

Curling is a quiet but highly technical game on ice. For those who have never seen it, it’s the only sport where you have to move around with rocks. Every rock is about 17-20 kg and is made of granite.

Working the broomWorking the broom

Watching the game is something of an exercise in patience. The only heavy action is provided by the men or women with the brooms. They “polish” the ice just in front of the rock to make it go faster.

A somewhat voyeuristic view of the curling gameA somewhat voyeuristic view of the curling game

And no, the spruce trees do not grow on the ice, they are brought in by the city to provide some shelter from the wind and to give a nicer view of all the amenities created for the snow and ice lovers on the rivers in the city.

However, even if the City of Winnipeg is involved with these activities, the Assiniboine Credit Union is the one sponsoring all these activities. All of their activities this winter can be found here.

Rope pullingRope pulling

Rope pulling is another of the voyageurs activities. Each person has to stand on a log and has the end of a long rope in his/her hands. On the signal, both players pull in the rope fast enough to get all of it and to pull the other person off the wooden block. This may seem overly simple, but a little strategy is necessary not to be pulled off of your own log by your opponent. Even if you got all of the rope.

Story tellingStory telling

Story telling on the ice has to be warm and comfortable. Apart from the free hot chocolate I mentioned before, there are also fires on the ice to keep everyone warm. Making fire on the ice may seem a little strange, but with more than 5 feet (1.5m) of ice, there is little chance that the fire will go under the ice leaving only a big dangerous hole…

Oil drums in their second lifeOil drums in their second life

Once you get off the ice again, after all it was about –24C to the skin, the city also has other Voyageur activity to show. All over the city there are snow sculptures. Some are ready, others are still in the make.

Old voyageurOld voyageur

This one on Broadway seems to be finished, another one in front of the Legislature is still under construction.

Future polar bearsFuture polar bears

The construction picture gives an idea of the size of the sculptures. These are far from the ones I made in our back yard when I was a little boy. There’s more snow here too, that might explain it perhaps Embarrassed smile.

I have mentioned the cold already a few times here. But how to stay warm of warm up when you just came off the ice? Apart from jumping in a pub or going inside the Forks Market, there are a number of strange looking structures to warm you up.

Every year the city organises a competition for the most original structures and ideas for a warmup hut. Some of these I already presented last year, but this year the huts have taken a different direction. I guess it’s back to nature.

Warmup hutWarm-up hut

This warm-up hut looks really warm and inviting. It projects summer warmth you could say. So I tried the inside to see if it was really warm. Any idea of rolling on the warm hay with or without companion evaporated quickly. Or perhaps I should say “froze quickly”. This one was still very cold on the inside and didn’t provide enough shelter from the piercing wind.

More warm-up huts or shack will follow in a different post.