One of Winnipeg’s premiere winter attractions is still not ready for walkers, skaters, skiers and cyclists to start enjoying, but there’s still good news for winter enthusiasts.

Learn to Winter programming at The Forks is set to launch this coming weekend, the national historic site announced Friday in a news release.

The Nestaweya River Trail isn’t open yet, but Winnipeg Winter Park’s 150 on-land trails are officially for walking and skating

The on-land trails — in partnership with the Winnipeg Trails Association — connect from the canopy rink, inside the heart of The Forks, to the CN stage area and the bigger field area, The Forks communications and marketing manager Zach Peters said Friday afternoon on CBC Radio’s Up To Speed.

There are also more than 100,000 lights that illuminate the skating and walking paths in the evening.

“They really give it a unique, picturesque and selfie-worthy skating and walking area at The Forks,” Peters said.

In addition to the on-land trails, The Forks announced the return of warming hut tours, which will begin in the last week of January. They are still being built off-site, Peters said. Six new huts are part of approximately 60 that will be erected.

Once the warming huts are put on or near the river trail, tours will be held Saturdays at 1 pm A registration link to sign up for the tours is expected to launch on The Forks website in the coming weeks.

There will also be skate, snowshoe and cross-country skiing lessons for people to sign up for online. The lessons will run weekends in January and February from noon to 4 pm — snowshoeing at 2 pm, cross-country skiing at noon and 2 pm, and skating at 1 and 3 pm

“For folks who maybe would like to learn about each of those winter activities, they can come down,” Peters said. “Winnipeg Trails will be on site to host those and teach people a variety of tips and tricks, and get them out trying the sports as well.”

Visitors to The Forks will also be able to join Elder Barbara Nepinak around the fire in the teepee for stories and drumming on Sundays from noon to 4 pm

There will also be entertainment by the canopy during the same time period, beginning Sunday with DJ Hunnicutt and DJ Co-op spinning the tunes.

Two individuals walk and skate under a canopy of lights.
Visitors on one of The Forks’ on-land trails on Friday. (Warren Kay/CBC)

River trail opening ‘tiny bit’ behind

The big question, however, is when the river trail will open.

Peters said the river trail normally opens in early January, and only three or four times over the past 20 years has it opened in December.

“[It] might be a tiny bit later than the average this year,” he said. “We’re obviously very conscious of making sure that people know it’s not safe to get on the river yet. Do stay off until those trails are officially open.”

The province’s Hydrologic Forecast Center said water levels increased by nearly five feet near Emerson, Man., and were peaking, according to a Thursday news release.

The center’s report came after 80 millimeters of precipitation fell in the southern portion of the Red River basin in the US between Dec. 24 and 27.

The Forks are monitoring the situation, Peters said.

“Those water levels that are rising, the water is coming up from the south along the Red [River] are causing some issues at this time, and so we can’t quite open up that port rink yet … but we will monitor what this water will do,” Peters said.

“It’s already sort of showing that puddling on top of the edges of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, and once it sort of crests in the next three to five days we’ll have a better sense of what more needs to be done to get the skating on the river up and running for this year.”