Some skiers are clipping in and gliding through the trails this week, for what will likely be their last run of the season.
Just west of Winnipeg, Beaudry Provincial Park’s trails were primarily empty Tuesday afternoon, as strong winds whipped through clearings, blew globs of snow from craggy oaks, and carved daunting snowdrifts across roadways.
Despite the snowstorm — or rather, thanks to it — University of Winnipeg biology student Luke Roffey set out for a ski this morning, clad in his father’s equipment.
"You don’t always get to cross-country ski after Easter, so it’s fun to take advantage of whatever Mother Nature throws at you," the 21-year-old said.
This week brought the heaviest snowfall event of the 2020-21 winter and spring season thus far, says Rob Paola, a volunteer meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada and moderator of Rob’s Obs, a Charleswood-based weather tracking blog.
The next-biggest snowfall of the season registered 14 centimetres on Dec. 20-21, 2020.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 17 cm of snow had descended upon Winnipeg.
"I just like getting out ‘cause it puts you out in the woods in the winter. There’s good fun to be had no matter what the weather is. You just got to be creative," Roffey said.
Roffey broke roughly seven kilometres of untouched trail, he said, adding he saw one other skier at the park, and had a chance encounter with a horned owl swooping down over a nearby field.
Shovel snow safelyClick to Expand
Shovelling snow can result in injury. The heavy, wet snow that continues to fall over parts of Manitoba this week can be particularly hazardous.
This unassuming activity can cause fatigue, heart strain, and severe damage to the spine, reports the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
— Stretch beforehand;
— Pace yourself, take frequent breaks;
— Shovel the snow as it falls: tackling the job in bite-sized pieces could prevent injury.
— Twisting: unnecessary rotating motions can put undue stress on muscle and bone;
— Lifting: if possible, push snow instead of picking it up;
— Using improper tools: CCOHS recommends lightweight, plastic shovel with a D-shaped handle.
Skiers can expect slushy, compact snow this week. But it’s not without benefits, said Karin McSherry, Cross Country Ski Association of Manitoba executive director.
"It’s going to give you a lot more to ski on than say, the same amount of snow in much drier conditions. It would just sort of blow away. You wouldn’t have much to ski on," she said Tuesday. "So, it does make for a pretty decent ski surface, in terms of grip."
McSherry expects most trails to remain ungroomed for the rest of the season.
"It’s just a matter of finding a park or greenspace and putting their skis on and saying that they skied in April," she said with a laugh.
Roffey originally planned to go snowmobiling near Lester Beach, but decided to "play it safe" and go skiing instead. He plans to make the trip north Wednesday — if blowing snow doesn’t hinder the road conditions.
Even with the recent snowfall, Manitoba’s snowmobile season was cut short due to warm weather this spring, said Yvonne Rideout, executive director of Snoman Inc.
"That’s too bad, because there were a lot of new riders this year," she said.
Rideout suspects a lot of people who’ve enjoyed riding in the past suited up again this winter because of pandemic restrictions and cancelled winter vacations.
Last year, snowmobilers throughout most of the province enjoyed 14 weeks on the trails, compared to 10 weeks this season, Rideout said.
The majority of the province’s trails closed the first week of March, when trail keepers removed stop signs and caution signs from the routes, Rideout said. Trails further north near Thompson and The Pas closed Monday.
"It’s a safety concern if you go on the trail after signage is removed," Rideout said, adding if riders do choose to go out, they should "proceed with caution."
Drivers can expect poor road conditions in central Manitoba throughout the next couple of days, with reduced visibility and snow disguising a base layer of ice, reports Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada.