Watch out, Ottawa — the Invermere Business Committee (IBC) is gunning for your world record.
Stretching 7.8 km, or the equivalent of 90 Olympic hockey rinks, the Rideau Canal currently boasts the title of world’s largest skating rink, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. But IBC chair Justin Atterbury says it wouldn’t take much to expand Invermere’s own outdoor skating trail and snatch the title away.
The Whiteway, a 17 km track ringing much of Lake Windermere, is currently five metres wide. “And if we go from five metres to 10 metres wide, we’ll be larger than the Rid-eau Canal,” he explains.
To secure the record, the group hopes to raise $30,000 in the next six weeks, which will pay for flooding and maintenance of the Whiteway over the course of the winter.
While the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club currently plows and maintains the Whiteway on a volunteer basis, Atterbury said the IBC doesn’t want the expanded track to stretch the valley’s volunteer reserves thinner than they already are.
“If we wanted to do it on the backs of volunteers we really wouldn’t need to raise very much money at all,” he says. “But it’s hard on the volunteers, and I think we can find the money to create some positions.”
The maintenance position will likely be shared by three or four people, and will keep the Whiteway fresh seven days a week.
In addition to the world record attempt, the IBC is also planning to build a “winter village” featuring a dog park, skating rinks, curling sheets, hockey arenas, a snow golf course and an obstacle course for snowball fighting near Kinsmen Beach.
“Every year on the lake we build these different facilities for that weekend, or that event. We’re going to build rinks for the pond hockey tournament, we’ll build sheets of ice for the curling bonspiel. And they all get built a week or so before the event,” says Atterbury.
By building everything at once, the group hopes it can convince “the weekend warriors we’re not just a May to September destination, that year round there’s always lots of things to do, and just because you don’t ski doesn’t mean you can’t come here in the winter time.”
To raise the necessary $30,000, the IBC is selling off the Whiteway for $2 a metre, with a minimum purchase of 20 metres. Individuals or businesses who purchase 200 metres or more will be recognized with signage.
Naming rights for the open-air hockey rinks — which will see heavy traffic during February’s Pond Hockey Championships — are also going for $750 per rink.
“We’re looking to have like, for example, The Rocky River Arena, The Valley Echo Centre, The Copper City Dome,” says Atterbury. “We want something unique.”
Invermere isn’t the first Canadian community to take a run at the Rideau’s title. In 2008, Winnipeg’s 8.54 km River Trail became the world’s longest, but because the trail is only two to three metres wide at any point, the record for largest skating rink overall still holds fast.
“We’re hoping to get a fun, gloves off thing going between the mayor of Ottawa and the future mayor of Invermere,” says Atterbury. “It’s all in good fun, it just creates attention, gives them something to talk about… we’re thinking really big to get ourselves on the national scene.”
To learn more about funding the Whiteway and winter village projects, call Atterbury at 250-342-5271.