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‘We are fixed in our geography but we are not fixed in our mindsets’: on living in a winter city

Posted on 11 February 2018

As I wrote in my latest newsletter, we got a lot of snow this week– to the extent that we parked our car for a couple of days since it was likely we’d be able to make it off the street. The upside to all the snow is it made for some good cross-country skiing:

That’s Shane Lake, about a 15 minute drive from my house and about 20 from downtown. The trail it connects to is one of the main bus routes in the city, near the university. Every time I get to enjoy it like I did yesterday, I’m blown away that it exists not just within city limits but on such an accessible route.

A couple of years ago some friends were out ice fishing and I went and joined them on my lunch break. Another year, before the snow had fallen but after the lake had frozen, a group of us from work went up to play hockey. That’s incredible.

While the lake is only about a fifteen-to-twenty-minute walk from the two main trailheads, the rest of the system covers over 25 kilometers of trail for snowshoeing, hiking, skiing, running or biking. Sometimes we go up, take a side trail we’ve not tried before, and see where it takes us.

And that’s just one option. My house is right near a school field, that connects to another school field, that connects to a park that connects to a forest while only crossing one road. Once we had visitors from another city and they couldn’t believe we weren’t on the edge of the city. It’s great for walking the dogs and, when we get a snowfall like this one, skiing right out of our driveway and into the wilderness.

People complain about the winter, but I think it’s when Prince George really shines. You don’t have to shovel rain, but you can’t build forts or have the experience of the full moon lighting up a dark night as it reflects off of it, either. I know people who go to Hawaii or Mexico for Christmas, but I can’t imagine wanting anything other than a city blanketed with snow. For the last few years it seems like the winter of my youth- snow, cold- comes later and leaves earlier and this year even when I’ve had to shovel multiple times a day I’ve been glad of it, hoping I don’t ever experience a year without snow, although it seems increasingly likely.

I recently wrote a story about Fort St. John, a place with more snow and more cold than Prince George, adopting a Winter City strategy in an attempt to reverse a 2004 study that found the notion of having six months of winter was a ‘marketing weakness’ when trying to attract students and professionals. Taking best practices from an international winter cities movement the project recommends a series of small steps, from providing warming huts on trails and winter starter kits for new residents to encouraging businesses to leave lights on to make streets more inviting.

Urban Systems

To write the article, I actually wound up watching the full hour-long presentation from Urban Systems, the planning company hired to take on the project. The quote that stood out to me was from Chad Carlstrom who said

“We are fixed in our geography but we are not fixed in our mindsets… We are here to create change that embraces the winter we live in.”

“We are fixed in our geography but we are not fixed in our mindsets.” What a great way to think about it.

Note: if you are a geek like me and would also like to watch the presentation, it can be found here— it’s “Untitled Video 2018-01-08 12:58:22.”

Filed under: cities, place, Prince George

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In case you can't read it, someone has written in the snow the words "No we don't"Meadow ski, finallyWelp.Hey look it's Amy Blanding kicking off a sold-out night of @ColdsnapFest 2018! #CityOfPGWell someone has to eat all the Christmas and New Year's leftoversSki daygifts from Prince Rupert #hammy