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Published: December 18th 2008
What would possess two Australians to spend an Australian summer in a Winnipeg winter? And there starts the conversation with pretty much everyone we encounter in Winnipeg, a city’s whose weather seems to define it and probably for good reason.
Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world (with a population greater than 600,000 people). That’s a record that doesn’t seem to appear on too many of the tourist brochures or ‘Highlights of Winnipeg’ lists. In a strange but somewhat logical paradox, Winnipeg is also one of the sunniest cities in Canada, with an average of 317 sunny days per year. It’s strange looking out of the window and seeing the sun belting down and reflecting beautifully off the white snow only to walk outside and find it’s -25 degrees. It’s kind of like a Canberra winter on steroids.
The weather reports are always interesting here. It usually goes something along the lines of - there will be a high of -13 tomorrow, but with the wind chill, it will feel more like -23. The low will be -21 overnight, but with the wind chill it’ll feel more like -35. REMEMBER: the average person's skin begins to freeze at
A Special Edition Canadian Quarter
The highlight of the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg. It's a difficult place to find, but as you can see, it is definitely worth it.
a wind chill of -27.
Things that are so foreign to a couple of Australians are quite routine here: shovelling snow every few days, changing your car tires over to winter tires; power points on each car parking spot and little extension cords hanging out of the front of every car so that you can plug your car’s block heater in so the liquids don’t freeze; needing a block heater on your car!; walking like a penguin everywhere you go so that you don’t slip on the icy footpaths; putting on a 3 layers, jacket, beanie, scarf and gloves just to walk to the shop 200m down the road
By embracing the cold weather, Winnipeg has laid claim to the title of World's Longest naturally frozen skating trail - an 8.54-kilometre path along the Red and Assiniboine rivers. You can’t help but be in a little bit in awe when one week you walk past the river and the water is slowly running downstream and then two weeks later it is completely motionless with a sheet of ice nearly ready to skate on appearing.
But to answer that perplexing question as to why we are here, basically
The Frozen Forks
Two rivers meet at 'the Forks'. Both rivers are now frozen solid. It's not even winter yet!
it really comes down to our compulsive need to serve the public. After making our fortunes as customer service reps with Cirque du Soleil, we felt the need to give something back to the people - Lok with the Manitoba Government (a role which ended very abruptly, but that’s a whole other story), and Catherine in the office of a provincial Government Minister. Pay rates are low in Manitoba and once the recruitment firm takes their cut of the action, it’s pretty much a recipe for the working poor. Having said that, Winnipeg is guaranteed to deliver us a white Christmas. There has been a sheet of snow on the ground since early November and with the highest temperature in December so far being about -7, there’s little chance of the snow melting any time soon. That, plus the large amounts of snow still forecast to fall in the coming weeks, pretty much guarantees a white Christmas. We aren’t really seeing too many signs of global warming here. As a side note, we are into our 5th day in a row with a high in the -20s, with no break in sight until Christmas. Once we factor in wind chill,
The White Bison
Imagine this thing wandering around in the snow on the prairies.
this can take us to -40. This all in Autumn - winter doesn’t even officially start until 21 December.
A couple other useless points not much related to anything: Winnipeg is the heart of North America, literally - it is the geographic centre; and, the City of Winnipeg has an annual budget of over $32 million for Roadway Snow Removal and Ice Control.
Political turmoil seems to have been a fairly regular event during our travels in this huge land mass. Only a matter of weeks after the election that a bored a nation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper managed to infuriate all of the minor parties by trying to cut off their electoral funding and at the same time taught the country a new word - prorogation.
Prorogation: discontinuation of the meeting (of a legislative body) without dissolving it.
Stephen Harper so infuriated the minor parties that they concocted a series of agreements that would result in a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Harper Government and the implementation of a coalition government headed up by a guy who resigned after taking his party to one of its worst election defeats in recent history. You just gotta love democracy. Enter master strategist Stephen Harper who, rather than facing a vote of no confidence, pleaded with the Governor General to ‘prorogue’ the parliament into the new year. The Result: Stephen Harper is still Prime Minister of Canada, the man who would be alternate PM has resigned for the second time in a month, and Canada is without a Budget for next year, doesn’t have a sitting Parliament and has no stimulus package during one of the worst economic meltdowns in modern history. You just gotta love democracy.
Taking a closer look at Winnipeg, the Assiniboine Zoo is one of the tourism highlights of Winnipeg and a very educational one as well. The bison (aka buffalo) is the provincial emblem of Manitoba and the zoo has a white bison which must have been a rare and striking sight out on the prairies for the aboriginal people back in the day. No wonder the white bison plays such a significant role in their culture. The educational part of the zoo came from the monkey house where mating protocol seemed to consist of: grab tail; pull tail till female slides within striking distance; lift tail and make sure everything smells okay; then jump straight in. Listening to the nervous giggles of parents as they tried to explain the situation to their inquisitive children entertained us for longer than it probably should have. We were also fortunate to see Debby, the world’s oldest polar bear, who died a week after we saw her at the age of 42. She did seem to sleep the entire day when we were there, and Lok swears he didn’t throw anything into her enclosure.
To round things out - Lok and Catherine’s Top 10 Winterpeg (in no particular order):
- Check into the Guesthouse International on Maryland Street and chew the fat with Bill about World War II spies, the Winnipeg Jets and the trials and tribulations of writing and running a small business.
- Visit the Nook and order a coffee and a Double Fatboy.
- Get access to a vehicle and make your way out to Johnny’s Diner and ask for the Meech burger - the only burger we’ve been warned about after we ordered it and given an opportunity to opt out. (Don’t worry about ordering sides, you won’t need them).
- Get tickets for a Moose game at MTS centre and live it up with Dancin’ Gabe.
- Loiter outside of the Tall Grass Prairie bakery until a fresh batch of cinnamon buns comes out of the oven. Don’t wait, eat it warm and fresh.
- Go and see a movie at Towne Cinema on Notre Dame. You can’t beat $4 for a matinee session.
- Have your own Jesus experience and walk, skate or fish on the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
- Take a look around the Legislative building. It’s the only place in Winnipeg where it can be 40 and snowing and the front disability entrance ramp stays bone dry.
- Log onto www.weatheroffice.gc.ca and have a look at the weather forecast for the next week. Yep, it’s still cold.
- Take up a hobby - read, write a book, knit, anything - it’s too cold to be spending any time outside anyway.
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liked the post
You've captured not only the essence of what it is to be a resident Manitoba but also of being a Canadian with this post.
Been here for 6.5 years..I'm outta here man..in 2.5 years time max!
You have to love this city man, its one of a kind. Born and raised a true winnipeg 100% Creeee. =D
Left this horrid place over 5 years ago. Best move I ever made! It's such frozen wasteland. Great article.
Sonic: Why 2.5 years? life is far too short to spend in Winnipeg. Just pack up and get out. You don't need much money to do it. You'll be a new person!
Pam and Melissa
In Oz from Winterpeg
We love your blog. We are in Australia from Winnipeg. We had a good laugh at this. We are obviously here in Australia to escape the harsh climate you are enduring. It's funny how no one here quite believes us when we tell them how cold it actually gets and how they have no idea what a block heater is. Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in Wpg. Don't get frost bite. We actually miss it a bit as ridiculous as that sounds, its just what were used to. Love Pam Byman and Melissa Donaldson
Winnipeg is sooo cold..... After returning from australia after being away, laying out on the beach for four months, I returned home to the Winnipeg winter and have come to realize how harsh the environment we live in really is. After being adjusted to the Australian climate, I'm not sure if I will ever be adjusted to -40 ever again, I don't even want to try... Now I will be looking into dual citizenship, I've realized how good the Aussies really have it :)
you wouldnt be able to see the white bison in the winter :D i wanna see that nickle!
coldest place dude
This place has so much negative comments so maybe it should keep slurpin up its favorite past time drink the slurpee! This place isnt very big either but you kinda captured a interesting trip! Toronto is so much warmer so it fits my taste more but when i hear reviews like this one it makes me have some regret to my move away from the family.
bahaha I'm an aussie living in Winnipeg this winter will be my 4th winter here! Love Winnipeg!!
Loved your blog!
I'm a native Winnipegger (never lived anywhere else) and I just found this by accident while looking up something else. Wow, it was really cool seeing my hometown through the eyes of visitors! It sounds like you really got out and about and saw some good stuff. I love the Nook too, my hubby and I used to live right down the road from there. (Never heard of a Meech burger, though. Hmmm . . . I might have to start exploring). And my neighbor works at the Tall Grass Prairie bakery! ha ha. As for Debby the Polar Bear, it was only after she died that I found out that this was the very same polar bear I'd been seeing at the zoo since I was a little girl. Anyways, thankyou for an interesting, informative (and extremely sympathetic!) report on our city. I enjoyed it very much. (And to all you nay-sayers who've responded already about the weather: Toughen up, you sissies! My Grandpa lived in a wood-heated house up north by the lake during the Great Depression, summer and winter, raised five kids and lived to a ripe old age of 98. He was the smartest, toughest and kindest man in the world. And he was a proud Winnipegger. So there! lol)
HUH?? MANITOBAH??? WTF??!!
THAT PLACE IN RUSSIA THAT STARTS WITH A "Y" IS THE COLDEST PLACE IN THE WORLD U IDIOTS! THEY TEMP IS -50 F DUHHHHH!!!!!1 YOU IDIOTS!
A friend and I were on a bus tour in Europe a few years back, I remember telling the looks of horror on the Aussies' faces when we told them how cold it gets in the 'Peg. We invited them to come visit us in February.... oddly enough, no one has taken us up on the offer. Lok and Catherine, you two are really brave!
give it back to nature
I lived there and without a moment of remorse in what I say Winnipeg is a compleat shit hole of a place. It is there purely by mistake and with the help of a Mr Selkirk who assisted in transporting my poor ancesters from Scotland Ireland and the north of England to that God foresaken mosquito infested featureless landscape in summer to a frozen bock of ice in winter. I hope he and his cronies are now in a place as hot as Winnipeg is cold.
Brrrrrrrrrrrr... too cold for me
I have a daughte=in=law living in Manitoba.... the other night she told her mom on the phone it was 3 degrees up there..... personally? I feel she can have that cold living.... ha ha.
the best place to live
Winnipeg, sure winters are cold but it is the best place on the planet! and the summers are wonderful!
you make me laugh
I have travled quite a bit in the last few years and am often asked to describe what,s the biggest difference ? I often find myself responding the news forcast and the way you reported the weather forcast,,,, it's one of the things that I love about Canada
a little deceiving
I am a Winnipegger & although I used to hate it, I have learned to love my city. Yes this city gets a little cold in the winter but we are blessed with incredible culture in our city. We have amazing theatre, museums, the ballet, symphonies at our every turn. We have festivals year round & beautiful parks to enjoy. We're an active city who isn't swayed by the cold but gets out & goes skating, skiing & snowshoeing in the winter, and we bike, run, hike, and play sports in the summer. What this article doesn't mention is as cold as our city is in the winter, it's just a warm in the summer. The temperatures climb just as high above 0' as it does below and we Winnipeggers take full advantage of it! I love my city, I love the people here & as much as I like to travel around the world, Winnipeg will always be my home. I hope you Aussies get to enjoy a summer too.
Winnipeg the coldest city in the world?????
winnipeg; coldest place in the world.
I know it can get really cold , but at least we can dress for it, We could be like poor Australia, and have all the floods and no homes.
don't go to cdi college before looking into all the facts and that you'll be sure that there's work at the end of your course
Winnipeg Coldest in the World
WinniCold. Instead of weather forecast titled "Outlook for today" it should warn with this phrase "Look Out Today, it's going to be Suuny and WinniCold! Bernie
Beggar KIngs - I hate Winnipeg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhRPctkqtuU
give it back to nature
Hey, Ernie Manitoba is happy when idoits like you leave the prairies. Obviously your ancestors had more more balls than you will ever have. Love Manitoba for what it is.
BEST 2 YEARS EVER
I lived there for two years, and I loved every minute. I was there on a Mormon mission, so I saw plenty of that cold, and I met thousands of the people. I loved that two years like you would not believe. There is no way I could ever convince my wife to go there, but if I could we would be there for sure. It's far from family and home, but it was so great that I'd put in ten years or so out there. I can't wait to go back.
Think whoever wrote information on coldest city in the world being Winnipeg has to spoil the topic by saying negative remarks about Stephen Harper - one of the best and longest majority government holding Prime Ministers in Canada. Lord help us when the liberals get back in again. Perhaps the person writing this comment is a liberal. And then this all makes sense here. And get the facts straight - Stephen Harper had the right to prorogue parliament or would you liked to have had a coalition party with Quebec calling all the shots and rest of Canada getting nothing. And when the liberals were in power - they used the prorogue in parliament alot more times than any conservative party. Get your facts straight here and be responsible. Perhaps this comment will not be allowed because I have too many facts here about the so called liberals and NDP grouping up with a bad party from Quebec and could have split our Canada. I am sure Alberta would have been the first province to join elsewhere if this had been allowed and Harper did not use the power of prorogue.
Canadian Encyclopedia Coldest City In the World
Cold Weather Superlatives Cold weather superlatives abound in Canada. For example, of cities in the world over a population of 500 000, Winnipeg has the coldest midwinter temperature. Ottawa is the second coldest national capital, next to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Canada is the coldest country in the world: average all the daily temperature observations year-round and you get a chilling -5.6° C. On average it is not one day.
Half the story.
Really wish you would visit in the summer months. Summers are warm and sunny! The highest temperature ever recorded in Winnipeg was 42.2 °C. Takes a person of character to thrive in this city. And yes that is a shot at all of you who slag it, spoiled, arrogant, and short sighted people. I feel sorry for you all if you need warm weather year round and perfect conditions to be happy. Whens the last time your heard of a Manitoban being killed in a natural disaster...in Manitoba. This is a great place to live, if your not a pussy!!!!!
It really that Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world and how long is the winter per year
Lok and Catherine
Lok and Catherine
Winnipeg isn't the coldest city in the world, but apparently it is the coldest city in the world with a population of more than 600,000 people.