The unseasonably warm weather forced the organizers of Pemberton's annual Winterfest to cancel the event this year.
The outdoor festival at One Mile Lake, which has included ice hockey, curling, fireworks and a polar bear swim, has been a winter highlight for locals for the last nine years. This year’s event had been scheduled for Jan. 17 to 19.
"It was a super hard decision for the committee," said Stephanie Nicoll, Winterfest chair. "Everyone has been supportive. They understand. Everyone knows winter is a little bit lacking this year. Our sponsors are behind us for next year."
Initially, the festival committee considered moving the event to February, but given the relentlessly warm and sunny forecast, it seemed like postponing the inevitable.
"It's not safe at One Mile Lake to host the event. We're working with the Village of Pemberton and that was a concern of theirs, too. The Red Cross advises 20 centimetres of ice and we're nowhere near that," Nicoll said.
Organizers also considered altering some of the events — such as indoor hockey rather than ice hockey — but ultimately decided to save their resources and hold a supersized festival for the 10th anniversary in 2015.
"Last year, we had all the events on the ice," Nicoll said. "This year, we're not able to do it. Our goal is to have the event take place in winter with a winter theme. Curling, hockey, ice fishing."
Winterfest first began with a grant from the provincial government, which was funding community projects in Vancouver and the Sea to Sky corridor to drum up excitement for the 2010 Olympics. The festival was such a hit that sponsors came on board to keep it running. Last year, around 600 people from Pemberton and as far away as Vancouver attended.
"We were set, ready to go. This warm weather and water spell caught us by surprise, unfortunately," Nicoll said. "Next year will be our 10th anniversary, so we're going to do it up big."
There are also tentative plans underway to hold a warm weather version of the festival — dubbed Summerfest — some time in August to gather locals and get them excited for the winter to come.
"We're just in the process of planning that," Nicoll said. "Hopefully, from Summerfest we'll get people psyched and ready to go."
While there are no details on that new event yet, Nicoll said they're already searching for volunteers and will sit down to firm up details at the end of February.