Edmonton embraces winter with international conference, outdoor fun

WinterCity Edmonton helps Edmonton embrace winter
The WinterCity logo, courtesy of WinterCity. Several of their initiatives will help Edmonton embrace winter this season

There’s a growing list of ways Edmontonians can celebrate their winter city identity, and many of those opportunities are championed by the WinterCity Strategy, an initiative aimed at helping Edmonton embrace winter. An international conference on winter cities is being offered in January 2015, and new and returning activities from previous years exist throughout the frosty season.

Winter Cities Shakeup Festival

WinterCity is hosting the Winter Cities Shake-Up, a conference at which international presenters will speak to the themes of winter fun, winter design and winter business. By bringing together citizens from countries such as Denmark, Finland, Japan and the United States, the Winter Cities Shake-Up Festival allows delegates to share ideas and learn from each other.

Edmonton embraces winter with the WinterCity Shake Up festival
The WinterCity Shake Up logo, courtesy of WinterCity Edmonton. Edmontonians can embrace winter by attending all or part of the festival

Running Jan. 28 to 30, 2015, the conference includes discussions and presentations but also outdoor activities such as early morning work-outs in the river valley and a bicycle trip to the University of Alberta’s observatory the evening of Jan. 29. An outdoor market will run in Churchill Square the afternoon of Jan. 30, and feature food, vendors, performers and snow sculptures.

Edmonton citizens who want to learn more about winter urban life are welcome to attend some or all of the interdisciplinary conference. “We hope that all Edmontonians will consider coming for at least part of the conference” writes WinterCity co-ordinator Susan Holdsworth in an email. “There is something for everyone and we have super high caliber speakers with lots to share.” Those interested in attending can register  online.

Embracing the outdoors with events and everyday activities

In addition to hosting a winter-themed conference with outdoor components, WinterCity is working with partners on projects and hosting events and activities that encourage Edmontonians to embrace winter. The City of Edmonton has partnered with EPCOR on the EPCOR Chalet, a new feature for this season. The chalet is located in Victoria Park in the old cricket club house near the park’s golf course and driving range and at the starting point of the cross-country ski trails. Open Saturdays and Sundays throughout the winter, the chalet offers anyone playing outdoors a chance to warm up by a fire pit with free hot chocolate. The chalet has public washrooms and staff are available during its open hours. The EPCOR-led initiative is one example of how WinterCity works with partners to build a city that embraces winter.

WinterCity is also working with winter festivals in Edmonton on the creation of a co-ordinating body for winter festivals. Holdsworth explains that this work is in keeping with the WinterCity strategy’s fifth goal, which is to “increase the capacity and sustainability of Edmonton’s winter festivals.” WinterCity has built six market huts that winter festivals and other events can use and which allow local vendors to market their products outside during the winter while staying warm.

WinterCity is also bringing back successful events from last year. The Front Yards in Bloom: Winterscapes initiative is in its second year, as is the Signature Drink competition. Last year, more than 50 establishments hosted outdoor patios for the inaugural outdoor patio party, an event aimed at promoting a four-season patio culture. This year, the patio party will be held in mid-March.

Holdsworth notes that several more winter events and activities are available for Edmontonians to enjoy and are listed in the Winter Excitement Guide and Explore Edmonton.

Ongoing WinterCity Work

Helping Edmontonians embrace winter takes more than just putting on events, but, as Holdsworth notes, it also involves making everyday life enjoyable. To meet this goal, WinterCity continues working on its design guidelines for our city’s infrastructure. “How we design our city has a huge impact on how nice it is to be outside in winter time,” explains Holdsworth. “We can have a huge impact on microclimates by blocking winds and capturing sunshine and also how beautiful or interesting our public spaces are.” WinterCity will present drafts of these plans at the Winter Cities Shake-Up Conference where winter design experts in attendance can review them.

Although WinterCity is in the early stages of implementing its strategy, Holdsworth says there’s a shifting attitude toward winter amongst Edmontonians. “Through our social media (WinterCity has Facebook and Twitter accounts), we have seen a shifting of the conversations about winter,” writes Holdsworth. “Also, the various media outlets have begun shifting the way they speak about winter. People seem to be focusing more on the beauty of the season and the various ways to connect with others, and enjoy our city.” The yegsnowfight, a spontaneous citizen-led activity, is another example of Edmontonians increasingly embracing winter.

As they continue to implement their 10 year strategy, WinterCity says they will keep encouraging this cultural shift through initiatives that will get Edmontonians enjoying the outdoors during winter.

For more on how Edmonton has embraced winter, you can read about how WinterCity got started and what it planned for its first year and about Edmonton’s winter anthology, 40 Below.