While the dance hall at Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes remains closed during the pandemic, winter-loving partygoers will be able to get a virtual taste of the hill’s annual Snowdance Festival over the next seven weeks.
Snowdance has been taking place at Falcon Ridge, located at Falcon Lake, about 155 kilometres east of Winnipeg, every January since 2012, when a poor snow year inspired the family-owned business to diversify. A winter music festival was a natural fit.
"There’s not a huge year-round population that lives here, so we ended up convincing a lot of our musician friends to come and work at the ski hill when they’re not out touring," says Emily Christie, general manager of the rental shop. "In 2012… we just had no snow, but a lot of staff sitting around and playing music. We decided, ‘Hey, if we can’t ski, let’s get people out for some music.’"
Christie’s parents own the resort and she and her sisters, Caleigh and Brooke, manage the festival and the hill’s day-to-day operations with their partners.
Live music has become a mainstay at the small ski hill in the Whiteshell, which typically hosts concerts at the chalet every Sunday. This season, the hill is open but the music program was cancelled owing to the pandemic and code-red restrictions. Up until the last week of January — when the organizers received a Safe at Home grant from the province — it seemed as if Snowdance would suffer a similar fate.
Christie and her siblings reached out to their musical circle of friends and brought in artists Slow Spirit, Richard Inman and Red Moon Road to headline the virtual events. Tweeners include musicians and ski-hill staff members Joe Madden, Dana Lee and Kenzie Jane.
"I love that aspect of it," Christie says. "We’re not just going out and hiring musicians, it’s just fully a showcase of the community involved in the hill here."
Snowdance at Home kicks off today at 6 p.m. with a pre-recorded video of music performances and entertaining interludes with the likes of Falcon Ridge snow groomer Ryan Gemmel and Manitoba Olympian Megan Imrie. Working with local production company BNB Studios, filming took place at the cosy Falcon Ridge chalet over one-and-a-half days.
The 30-minutes episodes, along with a series of winter skill workshops, air every Wednesday evening until April 7.
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"It’s not just a music festival. We really celebrate that it’s a winter festival… and we have all sorts of great outdoor activities happening associated with the festival," Christie says. "We really wanted to incorporate that into the video to round out the true Snowdance experience."
While Christie is going to miss seeing the people who attend the festival each year, she’s excited to be able to share the event with a wider audience. Owing to the size of the hill and limited nearby accommodations, Snowdance tickets are usually limited to 200 people.
"It’s kind of the same faces we see every year and it’s a close-knit community of attendees and performers," she says. "For all those folks that have not been able to get tickets in the past, this is a great window into what Snowdance is all about."
Eva Wasney Arts Reporter
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Visit falconridgeski.com/ to tune in to the Snowdance at Home festival. Pre-recorded episodes launch Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
• Feb. 17, Episode 1: Music by Slow Spirit and Joe Madden. Ride-along with Ryan the Groomer; annual Polar Plunge with Kris Ulrich and Boy Golden; and pizza-making with two-time Olympic biathlete Megan Imrie
• March 3, Skills Workshop: “Saw Stuff” with Ben Hadaller of Wildwood Arborcare
• March 10, Episode 2: Music by Richard Inman and Dana Lee. Skijoring at home with Falcon Beach Ranch, snowmaking with Ryan the Groomer, leather clutch-making with Bad Hilary
• March 24, Skills Workshop: Soap-making with Deanne from Four Sons Farm
• March 31, Episode 3: Music by Red Moon Road and Kenzie Jane. Falling safely with ski instructor Caleigh Christie, waxing cross-country skis with Emily Christie, fiddle jam with Brooke Christie and Falcon Beach School students, and the "Turkey Shoot" with Ryan the Groomer
• April 7, Skills Workshop: “The Ways of the Ice Man” with Lyndon Freeze