I promised to write a post on Mount Winnipeg. I warned you not to look it up on Wikipedia as it isn’t listed. In fact, I only publicly named the mountain this week.
When I first moved to the prairies (Great Plains), I was really bothered by the lack of vertical stimuli. Everything was flat – as far as you could see. However, in summer with the golden fields of wheat moving in the wind like waves, it becomes a seascape. The sky was huge and the brightest blue I had ever seen in the heavens. As I became accustomed to the landscape its own special beauty grew on me. I began to notice that prairie visual artists often used horizontal images and very subtle palettes. The landscape insinuates itself into the artist’s very essence.
There are hills, and some pretty good-sized ones at that, in our province of Manitoba, but none right in Winnipeg. Except, that is, during the winter months.
One of the new ideas I had to get used to, living here, was that once the snow fell in late fall, it would stay on the ground until the spring thaw. So we could have snow on the ground from late October till early April in a long winter year.
Some of the snow evaporates, and we often get one or two weeks of above freezing temperatures when some of the accumulated snow melts – but not completely.
This means the accumulation on the roads, sidewalks, parking lots and playgrounds, must be ploughed and then carted away. There are three snow depots operated by the City. The one in the South of Winnipeg is about a kilometre from our condo. It often grows high by the end of January and into February. But this year, as you can see from the photograph, it has grown into a huge mountain very early. In fact, it has grown so quickly city officials have closed it for the season. The huge bulldozers that push the truckloads of snow to the summit have had to stop. It has probably reached its safe limit for them to operate. Also, there is only so much melt water that the area can absorb in spring and summer. Some years the last remnants of the mountain can be seen, black and grey, melting in the 30 degree celsius (80-90 degree F) summer weather well into mid-August.
I had hoped to photograph some of the snow-banks too, but the wind was still very strong today and I only had the old iPhone with me. I may try again tomorrow – if conditions are better.
We don’t get that much snow in Winnipeg compared to our US neighbours to the South in Minnesota and North Dakota. We average about 48 inches a year. But it just stays around too long, like an annoying guest at a reception.
Now for another amazing fact. Well, it amazes me. Because of the snow and the very low temperatures (often too low for salt to melt the snow and ice) the City of Winnipeg scatters 70,000 tons of sand on the streets each year to provide traction. When the temperatures are warm enough they add salt.
Each spring the sides of the roads, boulevards and sidewalks are covered in sand. A huge clean-up begins and the 70,000 tons of sand is swept up and trucked away. I’m not sure where they dump the used sand – but it is a huge undertaking. Mount Winnipeg watches over the spring cleanup from its great summit. Then as the months go by it starts to shrink like an elderly driver till you can barely see him over the steering wheel.
It would be a fun project to take time-lapse photography of the rise and fall of Mount Winnipeg one year.
This reminds me – if you have five minutes, take a look at this short film of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire by Charles Eames (the architect/furniture designer). It’s a wonderful study in time.