Map of the Lake Windermere Whiteway.

Map of the Lake Windermere Whiteway.

Whiteway record likely on hold

Guinness Record-breaking Whiteway looking like a no-go this winter

Lake Windermere’s world record for hosting the largest and widest outdoor skating rink will likely have to wait at least one more winter.

Because of less-than-ideal weather conditions, the organizations working to break the record — the Columbia River Greenways Alliance (CRGA), the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club, the

District of Invermere (DOI) and the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce — will probably wait until next winter before registering the 17.3-kilometre Whiteway with Guinness World Records.

“What we ran into this year is a really bad freeze,” DOI councillor Justin Atterbury told The Echo. “You kind of get a freeze, and then some mild weather, and then you get a freeze right away again with some snow in the meantime; so if you go out there, it’s really bumpy, it’s almost like there are speed bumps everywhere and there are a lot of ripples and that’s the kind of thing we can’t get out; Mother Nature has to get it out for us, and it’s not doing it for us this year.”

Currently, Winnipeg holds the record for having the longest skating rink at 8.5 km, defeating the previous record of Ottawa’s Rideau Canal of 7.8 km in 2008.

While Lake Windermere could have had the record broken last winter, communication between local organizations and the international world-record publisher didn’t coincide.

“Last year was the first year we really tried for it — we had it awesome, but by the time Guinness World Records got a hold of me with a list of all the criteria that they needed, winter was over,” Atterbury said.

As the Whiteway’s record is at the mercy of Mother Nature, financial resources are being maintained until the weather co-operates.

“We did a ton of fundraising last year for it and we still have a bunch of those funds from our sponsors last year, which is really good,” Atterbury said. “We also don’t want to waste it because it is a fair bit of expense to build and maintain it. We know we can’t get the conditions just right where it’s usable; we have to just wait.”

But when asked about the chances of its success this winter, Atterbury cast doubt.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to do anything about it this year… we want to make sure we have a good quality product before we [officially break the record],” he said. “We want a ton of publicity to go with it to draw attention to the valley. One thing we don’t want is to fudge it a bit just to get the attention, and then have people come out here and they’re like, ‘This thing sucks’.”

Once the record is broken, Atterbury hopes to see the Whiteway fight to defend its record in the future, stating that annual attempts will be of greater benefit for the surrounding communities.

“It’s kind of like the Stanley Cup Playoffs — you want to win the Stanley Cup every year; if you won the Stanley Cup five years ago you can’t really cling to that, so our goal is to engage Winnipeg and Ottawa year over year with the competition of it… I think the key for our area is to have the competition every winter, as we try again to maintain, or they try and take it from us. And if we lose it, or it goes back and forth, that doesn’t really matter, because its more just the idea of it, as well as the fun verbal battles that go along with it as we talk to each other.”

The idea of having Lake Windermere break the world record came to Atterbury two years ago when he was reading a National Geographic article about the Rideau Canal. He learned of the defeatable world record and knew that Lake Windermere had the potential to beat it.

But if there’s any hope of breaking the record this winter, it will require an unlikely chain of events.

“If we had a nice thaw, a really warm thaw — basically enough so the rough parts melt down to an even level — and then a quick freeze with no wind, then it’d be dynamite,” Atterbury explained. “It’d be like glass out there.”

The intent to break the world record has gained the attention of Discovery Channel, the Toronto Star, Winnipeg Free Press, and several other media outlets around Canada.