Extreme cold doesn’t put chill on opening of winter attraction
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ST. ADOLPHE — After 25 years of owning and operating A Maze in Corn, a little bad weather hardly fazes Angie Masse.
On Saturday afternoon, the 52-year-old was like a human battery — greeting patrons, organizing staff and fielding questions from reporters who arrived at the Masse family plot to cover the opening of the world’s largest snow maze.
“We don’t get stressed out,” she said, recounting how she woke to the news of an extreme weather warning bearing down on southern Manitoba.
“We don’t make any big decisions until we check the weather in the morning… You just do the best you can. The goal is always for people to come and have a good time, and enjoy what they see when they get here.”
Just in time for opening day, Environment Canada announced it was expecting an Arctic air mass to settle in over the eastern Prairies and remain until next week. Temperatures plummeted to below -22 C Saturday, with windchill values forecast to feel like -40 through the weekend.
The cold led to a muted turnout at the maze, located roughly 13 kilometres south of Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway, but there were still a few dozen patrons brave enough to venture in throughout the day.
Masse, who owns A Maze in Corn with her husband, Clint Masse, said she was not concerned about the modest crowd.
“If we get a hundred people, that will be good,” she said, adding ticket sales always slow down when the weather dips.
On a warmer day, the site might see more than 1,000 visitors at one time, with patrons enjoying a variety of activities, including tobogganing, sleigh rides and games.
Live entertainment, hot beverages and a newly constructed ice bar complete the experience.
“This is one of those things you don’t get an opportunity to do much… It’s wonderful, and one of those memories you will keep forever,” said Andrew Reeder, 27.
“We had a bigger group planning to come, but they were turned-off by the cold. But, you’re inside a giant maze, so you’re out of the wind. If it’s cold, just plan for it.”
Before venturing into the maze, Reeder stopped at the ice bar, where he watched three of his friends indulge in shots of peppermint schnapps.
The group, who are all members of the Canadian military, were the bar’s first customers of the season.
Reeder often has to relocate for work, so discovering the snow maze was an exciting opportunity to experience something distinctly Manitoban, he said.
For his friend Amélie Métail, it was a chance to return to something familiar.
“I love it. It brings me right back to living in Quebec,” Métail, 26, said, comparing the snow buildings to Hôtel de Glace, an ice hotel situated outside Quebec City.
A Maze in Corn developed its snow maze five years ago, earning itself a spot in the Guinness Book of World records for being the largest of its kind. This year, the maze measures nearly 60,000 square feet and features five buildings, each constructed of snow and containing elaborate carvings.
Creating the maze and accompanying buildings involves the help of two snow guns (similar to the kind ski hills use), 25 snow builders and hundreds of working hours.
Roughly 65 staff operate the site, which typically opens in January but was delayed this year owning to unseasonably warm weather, Masse said.
Travel Manitoba provides support for the site through its Tourism Innovation and Recovery Fund, which has helped the site expand in size and amenities.
Next month, A Maze in Corn plans to launch a winter restaurant in partnership with a local restaurant and chef.
Masse requested to withhold the partner restaurant’s name, but said patrons will enjoy a fine-dining experience complete with a four-course meal. The opening day is expected to be sometime around Feb. 11, and tickets will cost between $120 to $180, she said.
Masse advises would-be restaurant-goers to dress for the weather, as they will be seated at tables carved from ice.
“It’s always fun to try something new every year… You’ve gotta come ready for this adventure,” she said.