The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Jordan Ross
Posted: 01/12/2019 10:00 AM
Clint Masse worked around the clock over the holidays, but he isn’t complaining.
Last weekend, Masse unveiled what could be the world’s largest snow maze, constructed on his 160-acre property along St Mary’s Road north of St Adolphe. An estimated 2,000 people have already showed up to quite literally take a run at it.
"It was pretty exciting to see," Masse said Monday, as he took a quick break from—what else—clearing snow.
He and his wife, Angie, have owned the property for 21 years. Every summer and fall, they welcome about 30,000 visitors to their corn maze and zip line.
This winter, they decided to keep the excitement going through winter by building a snow feature.
The idea started with an inspiring visit to Hotel de Glace, the famed ice hotel near Quebec City. Masse inquired about the cost of the hotel’s snow maze, and was bowled over by the $400,000 figure. He figured it could be done for less, but put the idea on the backburner.
This fall, he began envisioning a luge slide. Then a colleague showed him a photograph of a Thunder Bay, Ont. snow maze that currently holds the world record.
"That was the motivator," Masse said. "The fun factor was there."
Excluding sweat equity and the snowmaking machines he already owned, Masse estimated he’s spent about $50,000 building the maze. It was a financial risk, but he suspected a new winter activity would be a hit.
"Manitobans want to be outside."
A crew of nine started off slow, first building an 18-inch base. They managed about 80 feet of wall per day by dumping "load after load after load of snow" into plywood forms. Soon they were averaging 400 feet per day. Masse’s snowmaking machines ran 24 hours per day for two weeks. All told, they’d used 300 truckloads of snow.
The machines afforded Masse some control over the snow’s consistency, but the process was still weather dependent. After three weeks, the walls—six and a half feet tall and two feet thick—were complete.
Inside visitors will find a labyrinth of confusing footpaths more than a kilometre in length. Masse also added bonfires for warming up, and commissioned several snow sculptures by Steinbach artist Lyle Peters. The maze takes most people 45 to 60 minutes to complete.
Masse is keeping the exact dimensions a secret until the maze is assessed by a team of local judges on Feb. 10, but says the maze covers roughly 25,000 square feet. Survey measurements verified by a notary public will then be submitted to Guinness World Records.
Just like the corn maze, Masse designed it himself using software. He selected a medium difficulty level, conscious that, unlike a corn maze, runners can’t take shortcuts when they hit a dead end.
"This one took a lot of time. Every wall has a double duty."
He said he’s pleased with the quality and design, even if he doesn’t capture the world record.
The maze, open Thursday through Sunday in January and February, will require periodic maintenance. But Masse said near-zero temperatures aren’t a problem, as they produce "snice," a durable and wind-resistant combination of snow and ice prized by snow sculptors.
Masse hopes to attract 15,000 visitors this winter. If the maze breaks even, he said he may add more winter features, eventually creating a full-scale winter fun park.
Snow is a creative medium with lots of architectural possibilities, he noted.
"The sky’s the limit."
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