Whiteway ‘in mother nature’s hands’

Invermere's world record challenge has the funding and buzz — but not the snow.

The Lake Windermere Whiteway has gone viral.

News of Invermere’s plan to challenge Ottawa and Winnipeg for their Guinness world records hit the national news media last week, and since then local organizers say their phones have been ringing off the hook.

“We’re getting calls from Vancouver, Calgary, it’s kind of getting out there now,” says mayor Gerry Taft, while Invermere Business Committee (IBC) chair Justin Atterbury has fielded calls from news organizations that include the CBC and Toronto Star.

“Our goal was basically to draw attention to the valley, so even before we’ve started that’s what’s happening,” says Atterbury, whose Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce-based organization is spearheading the challenge.

“We’re well on track, now we just need to build something.”

Fundraising for the project — which will see the current 17 km skate track double in width, and a winter village built near Kinsmen Beach — is also coming along.

Atterbury estimates the IBC has raised about $15,000 through business donations and individuals buying metres of the Whiteway. The Columbia Basin Trust has also expressed serious interest in funding the project.

The challenge now, Taft and Atterbury say, is all natural. Atterbury says building the record-setting track could have started two weeks ago “if we had snow.”

At present, volunteers are flooding the portion of the lake designated for outdoor hockey rinks, to even out the ice. But the project’s primary construction material is a little thin on the ground thanks to a rash of warm weather through the holiday season.

“If we get snow this weekend, we’ll get out there, hopefully Sunday or Monday, and build it,” he adds. “Right now the ice is a world record. It’s the largest surface, but you need some snow to actually build something that’s tangible.”

“At this point it’s kind of in Mother Nature’s hands,” says Taft.

If the snow comes and the temperature drops, Atterbury expects to begin talks with the Guinness Book of World Records early this month.

Meanwhile, Taft has fired off letters to Winnipeg (which has the world’s longest maintained outdoor ice rink) and Ottawa (whose Rideau Canal boasts the largest outdoor ice rink) alerting them to Invermere’s plan.

“We sent letters to both Ottawa and Winnipeg, both their councils and the organizations that actually organize their ice rinks… sort of challenging them in good sport, saying we’re after them and after the record,” Taft says.

However, if unseasonably mild weather continues to foil the record challenge, Atterbury says the IBC will wait until next winter to build the expanded Whiteway.

“All the sponsors we’ve had this year will be our sponsors next year, basically,” he says. “We don’t want to waste people’s money.”


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