Blast from the past: When ice racing was a staple at Vernon's Winter Carnival - InfoNews

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Blast from the past: When ice racing was a staple at Vernon's Winter Carnival

Ice racing on Swan Lake 1997.
Image Credit: Greater Vernon Museum and Archives GVMA#31470
January 10, 2020 - 7:30 AM

The milder winters appear to have put a stop to it, but a few decades ago, driving a car at high speed around the then frozen Swan Lake was part and parcel of the Vernon Winter Carnival.

It's hard to pinpoint when ice racing became a feature of the Vernon Winter Carnival - possibly sometime in the seventies - and there's some uncertainty of when it ended, but for both drivers and spectators, the event was spectacular.

"It was a blast," John Reznik told iNFOnews.ca

Reznik competed in his first ice race on Swan Lake during the 1997 Winter Carnival and believes this may have been the last year the races took place.

Ice racing at Swan Lake, 1997.
Ice racing at Swan Lake, 1997.
Image Credit: Greater Vernon Museum and Archives GVMA#31469

Driving a 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco with sheet metal screws stuck into the tires for grip, Reznik talks of hitting speeds of 170 km/h on the straights before sliding the vehicle around the corners.

"There's a certain excitement of being out in the cold, cars screaming sideways... it was a challenge," Reznik said. "The colder it got, the dustier it got, and you'd literally be driving in whiteout conditions."

While Reznik said he never had any crashes, he did come off the track finding himself facing the wrong way on a corner in a whiteout.

Reznik said the race took around 15 minutes to complete and different cars had different categories. He raced in the open class, meaning he could run whatever he wanted.

From the ice, he progressed to pavement to race cars for years afterwards, and believes 1997 may have been the last year of ice racing on Swan Lake.

With 13 inches of ice needed before cars could safety race on the ice, Reznik believes milder winters put a stop to the races he fondly remembers.

Vernon Winter Carnival executive director Vicki Proulx isn't sure when the ice racing starting or ended, but said it ran for "many, many, many years."

Flicking through a carnival brochure from 1979, Proulx finds no mention of ice racing, but points out it could have just been a mild winter so no races took place. Either way, it's highly unlikely ice racing will return to Swan Lake again regardless of the weather - the lake is a protected nature area.

The 2020 Vernon Winter Carnival takes paces Feb. 7 to 16. For more information go here.


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