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The Fort Garry no longer just downtown

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North Kildonan resident Garry Bochinski is shown in front of his quinzhee, The Fort Garry.

PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON Enlarge Image

North Kildonan resident Garry Bochinski is shown in front of his quinzhee, The Fort Garry. Photo Store

Some Winnipeggers met this year’s constant dumps of snow with dismay.

Others, like North Kildonan resident Garry Bochinski, made the most of winter’s precipitation. For the last seven years, at least, Bochinski has been building a quinzhee, dubbed The Fort Garry, in his backyard.

This year’s snow structure measured 26-feet long by 14-feet wide and just over 12-feet high. Bochinski first started making quinzhees as something to entertain his nine grandchildren.

"They get a kick out of this," he said. "Actually, what they want to always do is climb up from the side. And I don’t let them until what we call — they’re anxious now — demolition day."

The 72-year-old Bochinski, who was a teacher at River East Collegiate for 27 years, said the grandchildren who will enjoy demolition day now range in age from 10 to 15.

"They like to get up to the top, and they figure they can crack through," he said. "They’re jumping like crazy and they can’t get through it. They need a shovel or a spade, and they bang and bang and bang, and then they get through."

Of course, before the quinzhee is demolished, it must be built. Bochinski said he started construction in the third week of November and completed it approximately two months later in mid-January. He worked on the construction most days in that span, putting in one- to two-hour bursts of shovelling by hand with shovels and spades, since he doesn’t own a snowblower.

Safety is a major concern as he’s building it. Bochinski ensures everything is solid before carving out the inside, to keep it from caving in.

"I put as much snow as I can into a pile, but I don’t start hollowing it out," he said. "I let it get solid and then I start. All the stuff I hollow out, I put it on the top and just keep building it up higher and higher."

Bochinski also enjoys creating the structure as it helps keep him in tip-top shape. He said he hasn’t missed a day of running every winter — he does 10 to 12 kilometres a day  — and appreciates the inexpensive way of keeping fit.

"To me, it’s a workout. It’s better than spending money in the gym," he said.

The fun isn’t just in creating and, ultimately, destroying the quinzhee. The Bochinskis hold a special get-together in early February where all three generations of the family gather in the time between the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day to eat cookies and drink hot chocolate in the quinzhee.

There has been talk in the family of extending the outdoor party a little bit further, holding a sleepover in the tent.

"The only thing I told them is ‘If you want to do it, you’ve got to have your dad sleeping here with you because I don’t want (for them) in the middle of the night ... to be crawling in (because they’re) getting cold," he chuckled.

If a sleepover happens, it may have to happen soon, as Bochinski acknowledged this quinzhee may be his last.

"My wife (Evelyn) thinks it’s a little ridiculous," he said. "I don’t think I’ll do it much longer. It could be the last one."

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