Spirits warm for Games organizers despite extreme cold snap

By Shedon Spackman and Troy Gillard
February 11, 2019 - 9:57pm

With the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer now just days away, colder than normal temperatures are expected to continue throughout central Alberta over the coming weeks.

Kyle Fougere, Meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada confirms what we’ve already known for a while – temperatures have been well below normal to start February.

“A cold, arctic air mass is in place,” he explains. “We’re probably going to see an end to that by Wednesday afternoon, so the worst of the cold air is going to last until then.

“After that, we will see temperatures moderate a bit where we’re not likely to see these minus 30’s overnight, we’re going to be forecasting overnight lows of minus 22 and minus 23.”

Despite a modest warm-up on the horizon, Fougere says Games participants should prepare for cold temperatures.

“The Games start on Friday and we’re forecasting a daytime high of minus 16, but in the morning it will be closer to minus 23,” he declares.

“For the weekend, highs of minus 19, minus 18, so anyone that’s going to be taking in the outdoor events, particularly this weekend, should certainly cognizant that it’s going to be very cold and try to bundle themselves up. Exposed skin will run the risk of frostbite and if you can reduce your exposure to the wind, then that certainly helps to stay a bit warmer.”

Fougere notes the normal for this time of year is a high of minus three and a low of minus 15.

“It looks like we’re going to stay colder than that for the rest of the month,” says Fougere. “When we get these cold, arctic air masses, they can become really stubborn and they’re hard to move out, so you need a big low pressure system to move through and bring in some westerly winds to get the temperatures back up. I haven’t seen that on the horizon.”

With thousands of visitors now descending on Red Deer, Fougere reminds travelers to also be prepared.

“To anyone travelling, make sure that they have the right precautionary equipment in their car,” he advises. “Bring some warm clothes and maybe a candle when they’re making their trips.”

Scott Robinson, CEO for the 2019 Canada Winter Games says they’re ready for whatever mood Mother Nature will be in.

“It certainly makes you resilient,” he defers. “It really hasn’t slowed down our preparations a whole lot. There are maybe a few things that take a bit longer, but for the most part things are still moving along.”

Three outdoor venues will be used during the Games – Canyon Ski Area, River Bend Recreation Area and Setters Place at Great Chief Park.

“In all cases there’s no specific temperature where you can or can’t go. It depends on the sport and depends a little on wind conditions and some of those types of things,” Robinson notes.

“We have contingency days built into those sports so that if it’s really cold on say the first day, you can bump things a day or two. So we’ll be watching the weather very closely. Ideal temperatures are somewhere between -10 to -5 for everything, but we can definitely operate in colder temperatures than that.”

Robinson says one good thing about the recent cold snap is they’ve been able to make a lot of snow at Canyon and River Bend, setting the stage for ideal conditions for competitors. He also says the long track speed skating ice at Setters Place has held up well the last two weeks.

“We’re confident that we’re going to be fine based on the long term forecast and we’re coming out of this cold snap, it’s great actually that it happened when it did ahead of the games, really.”

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