After March meltdown, Snowking to consider earlier dates

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Organizers of Snowking's Winter Festival will discuss whether to hold future festivals earlier in the year after a March heatwave brought the 2019 edition to a premature close.

The festival relies on cold weather to keep its venue – a castle partly made of snow and ice – and parking lot, atop the frozen Yellowknife Bay, in good condition.

This year's record-breaking March heat forced the Snowcastle to close a week ahead of schedule, marking the first time the festival has wrapped up early in its 24-year history.

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Festival spokesperson Laura Busch told Cabin Radio the decision to bring forward the event in future years would not be taken lightly – but was under consideration.

"That’s definitely something we’ve been talking about already, for a couple of weeks," said Busch.

"It’s so hard to know. It’s hard to know what the weather will be doing this time next year – it could be minus-40 for the whole month of March.

"But we are considering all of the options, and one of those options is holding the festival earlier in the winter and getting the castle built sooner.

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"Everything is still on the table at this point."

At the heart of that discussion will be an attempt to understand how likely it is that similar conditions will occur again in future years.

Data shows Yellowknife's annual mean temperature has warmed in the past 60 years.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the city's annual mean rarely crept above -5C. By contrast, only one of the past 29 years has posted an annual mean below -5C.

But a March spell this warm remains an outlier.

Organizers must weigh the merits of moving earlier in the year – to avoid a repeat of 2019's melt and early closure – with the potential for a February festival to suffer from bitter cold instead. (February this year was Yellowknife's coldest in five years, hitting -43C at one point.)

Meanwhile, the weather continued to have a broader impact beyond activities on Yellowknife Bay.

The Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road, which connects Highway 4's terminus to the NWT's three diamond mines, reopened to both commercial and public traffic at midnight heading into Saturday, following a two-day weather-related closure as portages deteriorated.

Road operators were expecting further temporary closures in the days ahead.

The Sambaa K'e (formerly Trout Lake) winter road was closed for the season three days ago, joining the Mackenzie Valley winter road, which closed earlier in the week.