Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

River path at The Forks finally opens to the public

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Patrick Jordon cruises down  the Assiniboine River, preparing the Arctic Glacier Winter Park  for the 2014 season.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Patrick Jordon cruises down the Assiniboine River, preparing the Arctic Glacier Winter Park for the 2014 season. Photo Store

Winnipeggers housebound for weeks due to polar-like temperatures are expected to be swarming The Forks en masse this weekend after the Red River Mutual Trail officially opens today.

Paul Jordan, chief operating officer of The Forks Renewal Corporation, said thousands of Winnipeggers are expected to lace up their skates and give the new trail a try -- as soon as The Forks figures out how long and where it will be.

"We won't really know officially until (today) what we will open up," Jordan said on Thursday.

"It all depends on conditions. After that, it will be week to week how much more we open."

Last year, the river trail was between six to seven kilometres in length, down from the Guinness World Record mark of 8.5 km set in 2008, for longest ice skating trail.

"We went 10 km the year after that, but Guinness didn't officially measure it," he said.

After weeks of below-normal temperatures here, the mercury is predicted to hit highs of -6 C on Saturday and -5 C on Sunday with the overnight low only going a touch lower to -7 C. Normal temperatures at this time of year are a high of -13 C and a low of -24 C.

Jordan said about 5,000 brave souls went to The Forks last weekend when temperatures were down around -30 C, but this weekend he expects crowds of up to 20,000.

"It has been a tough go here these last six weeks -- we're dependent on the weather," he said.

"Once the trail opens, we get the same crowd numbers as we get in the summer. People have really embraced winter and the Red River Mutual Trail."

Jordan said there were about 250,000 visits to the trail last year.

Forgot your skates? No problem, Jordan said, because the person who runs the mini-doughnut outlet at The Forks also rents skates for any age and size.

Jordan said despite the frigid temperatures, the trail is opening about the same time as it does every year.

"We've measured two feet of ice... we have our Zambonis on it."

Do you plan to go on the river trail on the weeked? Join the conversation in the comments below.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2014 B1

History

Updated on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 6:50 AM CST: Replaces photo

11:07 AM: changes headline

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