At long last, the world's largest snow maze is ready to re-open in southern Manitoba.
Clint Masse is the owner of the outdoor attraction at St. Adolphe. He says they held a soft opening in late January but then shut down for two weeks because of the unseasonably mild weather. Masse says they are ready for the second soft opening on Saturday of this weekend.
Even though southeastern Manitoba experienced 12 straight days of temperatures that were above freezing, Masse says the snow maze itself did not take much of a hit. That is because of how cloudy and foggy it was for those two weeks. Further to that, Masse explains that because it was just a soft opening two weeks ago, there was not a lot of dirt and road grime that had tracked into the maze. He says if the ground in the maze had been filled with dirt, the sun would have beaten down and melted those areas.
One thing that had to be shelved because of the warm weather was their den restaurant. Masse says they still had about 10 days worth of work left to do on the restaurant. However, they would only be able to start that work now and so the decision was made to pull the plug on the restaurant for this year.
"That was kind of a bitter reality to think that Manitoba can't sustain a winter venue in January and February, that was so bizarre," he says. "Definitely painful."
According to Masse, they had a lot of pre-sales for the restaurant, which meant they now had to repay their customers. In addition to that, he says they had already put in a lot of effort to build the restaurant.
Masse says he is now hoping for at least five weeks of winter, noting that is about how long they need for the snow maze to be worth it financially. Having said that, Masse notes that if we should suddenly go down to -30 degrees again, most Manitobans are probably too conditioned right now for the mild weather and would not make it out to a snow maze in those temperatures.
He says last year the snow maze was open until about the third weekend of March, which is unusual. Masse notes they normally make it through the first weekend for sure and he is hopeful that this year they can make it to at least the second weekend. He says weather has a way of balancing itself out and with January and February being so mild, maybe March will be a different story.
With Saturday only being a soft opening, Masse says not all of their venues will be up and running. Further to that, he says there is not enough snow to run their sleigh rides, the snow bar will operate with a lighter capacity and there will only be one lane open on Snow Mountain.
"Just a little bit lower capacity and some of the normal offerings aren't quite there," he says.
In order to get ready for opening day, Masse says they are using a Harley rake to break up the ice that has built up in the maze. He notes the mild weather the last two weeks had turned the ground into a sheet of ice.