Sauble Winterfest, Hepworth snow day ski welcome the white stuff

Members of the Sandbaggers team, in yellow, compete against the Git-R-Done squad during the road hockey tournament at Sauble Beach Winterfest on Saturday, January 18, 2020 in Sauble Beach, Ont. Rob Gowan/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network Rob Gowan / Rob Gowan/Sun Times

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When it comes to planning winter events, snow and cold temperatures are usually very much appreciated by organizers.

Mother Nature came through in a big way this weekend for a couple of winter-themed events in central Grey-Bruce.

“We are her for Winterfest, not Summerfest,” Sauble Beach Winterfest co-organizer Bruce Worthington joked Saturday as a storm blowing through the area was expected to dump 15 to 20 centimetres of snow.

“We don’t really care that much about the weather. We are pretty hardy folk here in Grey-Bruce and we don’t shy away at a bit of snow.”

This year’s Winterfest was the 41st annual put on by the Sauble Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“This event is really kind of a way to break up the winter and enjoy ourselves here for not only locals but tourists who may want to come up,” said Worthington. “It lets people know we exist in the winter, we do things and love to have people here.”

It kicked off Friday night as a bitter cold settled on Sauble, but that didn’t stop throngs of people from coming out to the parade up Main Street to the community centre, where they had the giant Christmas tree bonfire.

There were dances for children and teens later on inside the community centre, while a new trivia night on Friday evening was a huge success with more than 225 people taking part.

“It was a blast,” said Worthington. “We were a bit nervous because that was the first time we had done it, but I thought it was a lot of fun. I could tell the people were having fun so hopefully we can do it again.”

On Saturday the wind whipped the snow around outside, but that didn’t stop about half a dozen teams from having fun in the road hockey tournament in the parking lot. On a nearby hill, children and adults alike enjoyed some tobogganing fun. North of town the Sauble Ski Club was open for skiers and snowshoers.

There was also fun inside for those looking to warm up, with a baby contest featuring little ones being judged on such things as best laugh, best smile, best superhero and wackiest hair. There were some bouncy castles, kids games, fundraisers, a silent auction and lots of food. Saturday evening saw the Winterfest dance featuring Midnight Blue take over the hall.

Andrew Marlow was at Winterfest where he was part of the Git-R-Done ball hockey team. He said they have taken part in the event for several years and it is always a lot of fun.

“It is nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air,” Marlow said. “We have had a lot colder years. This is actually warm compared to some years.”

After the snow fell Saturday it left a nice cover for World Snow Day on Sunday, which the Bruce Ski Club took advantage of by holding a Free to Ski event at the Sawmill Trails near Hepworth.

The club opened its ski and snowshoe trails at its Sawmill Nordic Centre on Sunday afternoon and it was free to everyone who wanted to come out.

Eight-year-old friends Paige Andrews, left, of Southampton and Shaylynn Luyt of Port Elgin ski at the Sawmill Nordic Centre during the Bruce Ski Club’s World Snow Day Free to Ski event on Sunday, January 19, 2020 in Hepworth, Ont. Rob Gowan/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network Rob Gowan / Rob Gowan/Sun Times

Thomas Hakala, who is in charge of promotions with the club, said it was nice they were able to hold the event this year after it had to be cancelled twice last year due to blizzard-like conditions.

“Last year it was a blizzard, -25, with gale-force winds and all the roads were closed so we cancelled,” said Hakala. “We rescheduled for February and it was the same thing.”

Hakala said this year he has been worried the event wouldn’t fly since they first opened the trails in November, because the temperature has been so up and down, forcing them to close trails at times in the last couple of months.

But on Sunday he said conditions were nearly perfect, and they had a good number of people out to take advantage of it. Participants were also invited to warm up around the bonfire afterwards and purchase soup and snacks in support of Julian Smith, a club member who has made the Canadian National Nordic Ski Team.

“These are excellent conditions so we have opened the trails up to the public,” said Hakala, adding that many of the club’s over 900 members were also taking advantage of the fresh snow.

Guides were available to show visitors around the centre, which includes 11 kilometres of both classic and skate ski trails and five kilometres of groomed snowshoe trails.

Hakala said the nice thing about the Sawmill trails is that they can stay open when a lot of other trails have to close, due to their base of mostly sand, with no water to deal with and very few rocks.

“They can groom on a few inches of snow,” he said. “We are open when other places aren’t.”

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