It’s a soggy start to Winterlude in Ottawa, with the opening of one of the main attractions postponed due to weather conditions.
The annual festival opened Friday morning and will run until Feb.19. Festival organizers announced Thursday that the opening of the Snowflake Kingdom, the popular site for ice slides and other activities, will be postponed for a day because of the weather.
Organizers said they had made enough snow to cover the area, but now they need more.
“Since last week it’s very warm, we lost a certain width of thickness of snow and we need to bring some more snow on the venue,” said Benoit Brière, coordinator of the Snowflake Kingdom with the City of Gatineau.
Brière said work will be done Friday and everything will be ready Saturday, including the large snow sculptures that live at the venue.
“Ninety per cent of the carving is done. The snow is more soft so it’s more difficult for the carvers to make some details, but since our carvings are facing north, we are capable to to keep them,” he said
Ice sculptors face difficulties
The warmer weather is top of mind for the ice carvers on Sparks Street as well. The forecast from Environment Canada shows sunny skies and temperatures hovering just below zero for the first weekend of the festival.
Ice sculptor Ross Baisas said that means it could take longer for a piece to fuse and the melting time will be increased. Fragile attachments are also at risk of coming off sooner than an artist would like.
The sun can also be a big enemy, he said.
“The UV can penetrate to the ice, that makes it fragile. That’s the reason sometimes the sculpture crash for no reason,” Baisas said. UV light can also make the ice look more white, which is why sculptures will be covered in protective wraps during weather like this week’s.
This isn’t the first time the festival has had to bow to Mother Nature. Only last year organizers had to postpone all of the outdoor events due to extreme cold.
But even with those sub-zero temperatures, the Rideau Canal Skateway didn’t open last year, and for the start of this year’s festival, it isn’t looking good either.
Despite opening briefly in January, the Skateway closed again when the warm weather rolled in. According to the National Capital Commission, it takes 10 to 14 consecutive days of temperatures between –10 C and –20 C to grow sturdy ice.
That means vendors will lose out the large number of patrons lacing up.
“We’re still in limbo, we’re not too sure what’s going to happen because of the inclement weather. It’s always a bit disappointing,” said Adam Malmberg, a partner and business development director with Dunrobin Distilleries.
That company signed a three-year contract, and missed out completely last year when the season was a bust. In the brief window the canal had opened this year, there wasn’t enough time to get their hut on the ice, and now he’s facing missing out on Winterlude.
“It definitely would have cemented a lot of revenue growth for us and just get our drinks in people’s hands. Would have been a stellar opportunity,” Malmberg said
There are still many events that shouldn’t be affected by the weather, such as the art installations on Sparks Street and in the Byward Market, along with the large slate of performances.