No decision yet on outdoor Winter Festival events, but organizers keeping an eye on the weather

Charlie Conners and his sled dog team rush down an open trail during the first day of competition in the 2023 Prince Albert Winter Festival 10 dog event. Conners would go on to win the event. Organizers are concerned about the lack of snow in 2024, but said they won’t make a decision on cancelling the races until a week before they start. -- Photo courtesy of Rod Young.

Prince Albert Winter Festival president Bev Erickson said they’re still a few weeks away from making a final decision on whether to cancel or modify some outdoor events due to warm weather and lack of snow.

Prince Albert started 2024 the way it ended 2023: with warmer than average temperatures. Erickson said she’s not worried about the lack of snow, but they are keeping a close eye on the weather forecast.

“We’re excited that the weather is warm enough that people might come out to the outdoor event, like the King and Queen Trapper stage,” she explained. “That being said, it kind of puts a kibosh on our snow sculptures and our dogsled races, so we’re hoping for a happy medium.”

Prince Albert recorded a high of just under 1 C on New Year’s Day, and a low of -8.9 C. That’s significantly warmer than the historical average for Jan. 1, where the high is -13 C and the low is -25 C.

The city received light snow on Tuesday, with periods of snow forecast for Friday and Saturday. However, Erickson said they’ll need more than that to hold many of their outdoor events.

The dog sled races are the primary concern. Erickson spoke with the festival’s outdoor coordinator on Tuesday, but said no decision would be made until a week before the races start. The festival will run from Feb. 9-25, with the races scheduled for the last two days.

Erickson said they need roughly two feet of packed snow for the races.

“At this point in time, we’re still planning on doing the dogsled races and trying to do something with snow sculptures,” she said. “If we don’t do snow sculptures, then we’re hoping that we can maybe do wood carving or something to showcase the festival somehow.”

The festival’s annual sliding party at Little Red River Park on Family Day may also fall victim to the warm weather and lack of snow. The festival has partnered with Lake Country Co-op for the event. However, Erickson inspected the hill at Little Red on Monday and said it’s still too icy for sledding.

Erickson said they still hope to host a scaled down event at Little Red even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

“It’s kind of hard to have a sliding party with no snow, but other than that, we have a lot of indoor events that will still be going off without a hitch,” she said.

The festival’s indoor events will remain unchanged with one exception: the Prince Albert Winter Festival Trade Show will move from the Alfred Jenkins Field House down to the Prince Albert Armoury.

Erickson said they wanted the trade show closer to the festival’s fish fry, which will be held at the Exhibition Centre.

The fireworks are the other change. Erickson said they plan to launch them on Family Day instead the Friday before the outdoor events start.

The first event on the Winter Festival calendar is the annual Tux and Toques Gala at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation building on Jan. 27.