Category Archives: Polar Bear Lake Winnipeg Crossing

Lake Winnipeg Polar BearRun/Bike Crossing: An Icy Treat

Well conditions have been mild for a fair while now in Manitoba and most all of the snowpack on Lake Winnipeg is gone.  But that didn’t stop Jeff Badger (long time organizer of the Polar Bear Run/Bike annual event from not only organize but also ride across himself.  It was in fact a very ‘Icy Treat’, but Jeff and few other fatbikers made a go of it and survived to share the images.  Good adventure fun!

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2013 Lake Winnipeg Polar Bear run/ride.

Fat Dallas’ Post:

Just a quick note to let you know that the run will go on the second Sunday of March, at 9.00 am Central Daylight Saving Time.  This will be March 10th .  Course details and start location will be announced pending confirmation of where the trail runs.

If you want to be on future mailers, please respond and I will set up a 2013 Group List.


For the bikers the race would be an out and back course. We can figure some sort of trophy that can be awarded. I think for simplicities sake it’ll be Ricky Bobby style meaning “your either first or last”.

UPDATED: Polar Bear Run – Re-routed for Safety Reasons

Fat Ian’s Post:

March 4 update from organizer Jeff Badger:

Hi everyone, as I previously told everyone, I went to Gimli to scout out the condition of the snowmobile trail.  Due to the lack of snow, the Trail Organizers have not groomed nor place the makers on the trail this year.  Without an official marked trail, does crossing have been going haphazard across leaving you with a crisscross of paths.  To attempt the crossing without a marked trail would pose too much of a risk for a large group as we would be scattered both front and back, as well from side to side.  I have also learned that in places, the ice froze with large air bubbles and snowmobilers have broken through.  Between the lack of markers and a groomed trail, it would be too risky for a large group to attempt.

Rather than cancelling the run, I am proposing that we run on the ice from Gimli to Winnipeg Beach and return.  There is an informal snowmobile trail between the two points and we will have the shore line to guide us along.  I ran out and back on this trail this morning, and it is pretty good shape.  By next weekend, if we get some warm weather, it will be quite stiff and should make for a good route.  The route will be similar in length 18 – 20 miles, and quite open and pristine as you run through Willow Island Lagoon.  We can leave downtown Gimli at 9.00 am and most people will be back in between 3 – 4 hours.  At least this way, carpooling won’t be an issue.

I know that a lot of you will be disappointed and I will return your entrance fee to those who do not want to participate for the alternate run.  I will send out an alternate course map tomorrow night.

For those who have signed up, let me know if you wish to cancel or not.

Below is information provided by Jeff Badger, organizer of the Polar Bear run.  Jeff has graciously allowed that fat bikes can participate in the event this year (thanks to FatDallas for inquiring).  Bikes will start at 9 a.m. SHARP on the EAST side of the lake from the Sandbar Motor Inn in Grand Marais – motel is on northeast side of Hwy 12.  Bikes will do an out-and-back route – about 60km round trip, and so will finish at about the same time as runners doing the one-way crossing. 

Keep in mind this format means there will be no support for bike riders during much of the first leg of the race, and that support will be minimal the rest of the time owing to our different pace.  So plan to be self-sufficient – bring all your own water, flat fixing stuff, tools, spare clothes, etc.  Also, there are pressure cracks in the lake ice – you will have to assess safety and watch for trail detours.  You are responsible for you.

Also – entry fee is $25 payable to Jeff in advance (see drop off info below).  If you don’t enter in advance, you will not race.

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Course condition update (March 4) from Jeff : So far the weather looks good.  We have more snow to deal with but it will get packed down by next weekend.  Keep your fingers cross that we don’t get anymore snow between now and then.  Temperature wise, we are okay so long as we don’t get an double digit plus temperatures and the water starts to flow out onto the lake.  The issue is not the thickness of the ice, but the surface water would prevent the snowmobile machines ability to assist us.  Single digit temperatures as is forecasted will be okay, not enough to cause the water to flow, but sufficient to help pack the snow on the ice to give us better footing.

20th Annual Polar Bear

The 20th annual Polar Bear Run is scheduled for Sunday, March 11, 2012.  The run is approximately 18 – 19 miles, starting at Siglivik Subdivision (approx 3 miles south of Gimli) and ending at Grand Marias.  The start time is scheduled for 9.00 am (daylight saving time).

The run takes place on the Snowman Trail that crosses the lake, groomed and comes complete with a warm up shack in the middle of the lake.  The trail has markers every 1/10 th of a mile so you can keep your direction should the weather reduce the visibility.  The footing varies, some years there has been large sheets of ice which makes it difficult to run or there has been some loose snow which again creates problems.  Generally the footing is crusty and you don’t sink into the packed snow too much.  Running spikes are recommended especially this year with the low snow pack.

The weather has varied greatly over the last 19 years, from rain to blizzards, and from plus freezing to minus 30 degrees.  We run from west to east as the winds are generally prevailing from the west.  Conditions are checked the night before and the run organizer will make the final decision if the race has to be postponed.  Generally speaking, the race would only be cancelled if there were strong easterly winds, open water or surface water on the ice.  The race has been cancelled twice and postponed twice due to weather over the history of the run.

The ground support sled will carry water to replace runner’s water bottles during the race.  It is important that as much as possible, runners carry their own water bottles and keep it in an insulated container.  During previous runs, the ground support water supply has frozen up within the first hour and or the supply has been extremely cold which will add to your chances of hypothermia if it is a cold day.  Also, the ground support may only meet up with you every half hour and towards the end, this half hour without water could be a problem if you are on the verge of dehydration / hypothermia.

Dress warm.  The best gear is a layer that is breathable but yet wind proof.  The air temperature will generally be 3 – 5 degrees colder than the land temperature and if sunny, the sun will create the opposite effect and cook you.  The worst is starting with a bright sun and at the end the sky clouds over and we start getting a slight head wind off the opposite side.  The temperature in this scenario can swing 10 – 15 degrees.  Most people run on regular runners, wind pants with one layer underneath and maybe 3 layers on their upper bodies.  It would be prudent to bring a balaclava just incase the wind changes and you need something to protect your exposed face.  Sunglasses are important and without them you will probably go home half blind and a splitting headache.  Most runners come home with true sunburn from the run.  One last trick, if you are running in summer shoes, duct tape the toes of your shoes to keep dry.  As you run, the snow will melt on your shoes and eventually wet your feet.

Additional gear; it would be advisable to bring a compass just in case the weather really changes and the visibility drops. One year you would hit the incline of the opposite shore without seeing it.  Another year, the horizon disappeared due to the low cloud cover.  Insulated water bottles and some nutrients for energy are also recommended.

The cost of the run is $25.00 per person payable in advance of the race day.  The money is used to reimburse volunteers for their gas and a free lunch at the other side.  Any extra funds will be donated to the Habitat Cycle of Hope.  Last year, approximately $350.00 was donated.  Payment for the run can be dropped off or mailed to Jeff Badger, 1444 Wellington Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba.  I would really appreciate payment in advance to assist in qualifying the number of people who will be attending as well, to avoid delays at the start of the run.

Remember, this run is organized to be a recreational run and not a speed test.  I don’t mind the faster guys racing, but with the slippery footing, you may pull a muscle.  Notwithstanding I stress that it is a recreational run and there will be support, you should treat it as a unsupported run.  The running group will eventually be spread out over 5 – 8 miles so it could take up to an hour for someone to assist you should you experience difficulty.  The trick is to dress and bring water and supplements to sustain the run.  Keep moving and don’t stop until you hit the other side.

Trail Map below, please note that the starting point may vary depending on the conditions.
PBR unroute