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This article was published 13/1/2011 (3501 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ready, set... lace up!
A Winnipeg winter tradition kicked off Thursday morning with the season's opening of the Assiniboine Credit Union River Trail at The Forks.
The river trail is shorter this year, running 3.5 kilometres to Churchill Drive, as opposed to the Guinness world record-breaking trail of 8.5 kilometres in 2008.
The shorter trail won't give us bragging rights this year. Winnipeg's traditional arch-rival in river skating, the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, opened on Jan. 8 and runs 7.8 kilometres.
But Winnipeg can blame the weird weather. Due to high water levels and too much flow in the Assiniboine River, there were initial fears the river ice would freeze in a way that was unsuitable for skating, so we're we're lucky to be on the river at all.
"It will be different this year, but it'll be just as exciting," said Paul Jordan, chief operating officer of The Forks.
A rough count indicated there were about 350,000 visits to the river trail last year. Considering the trail has opened a week earlier than usual this year, there's a chance this number will rise.
All numbers aside, Jordan says this is his favourite time of year.
"This is a tremendously nostalgic thing. People love to skate. It reminds them of their childhood. There's something about skates hitting ice that you just never forget," Jordan said.
Those who skate on the trail will see interesting architecture along the way. The Forks has again turned the building of the trail's warming huts into an art and architecture competition. Five warming huts, different from last year's creative masterpieces, will be built by some of the world's best architects between Jan. 24 and 30 and will be brought down to the river after that. One of the few skaters who came out Thursday morning was Lynn Peters.
"I love to skate. I come here as often as I can and I just wait for them to open the big trails up.
"This is the best skating when you can go that long distance. It's so private down here. There may be a thousand people down here, but you're still one person on that trail," Peters said.
Al Morin, president and CEO of Assiniboine Credit Union, led the official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday. Morin drove the ice-cleaning machine into the ribbon, tearing it in two.
The title sponsor's CEO drove the machine flawlessly, but that should not come as a surprise. He has some experience under his belt.
"This is now my third year that I've been driving the Zamboni, so I had one initial lesson and I was good to go. If I get a few more hours in, I think I'm ready to go," Morin said.
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