The term “participaction” has an extra element of promise when it comes to the fourth edition of Montréal’s Barbegazi Winter Action Sports Festival. The Barbegazi Festival (named for the gnome-like, European Alpine creatures of lore that took pleasure in, among other things, avalanche surfing) isn’t just a venue to cheer on wild winter sports action. It’s a place to be part of it.
The all-ages Barbegazi Winter Action Sports Festival – which this year runs March 5-6 – again takes place against the dramatic backdrop of Montréal’s Olympic Stadium, on the Esplanade Financière Sun Life in the city’s continually reimagined, rejuvenated Olympic Park. Events include fatbike racing, snowskating (i.e., snowboarding and skiing on the Olympic Park’s railings and stairs), freestyle snowmobiling, obstacle course races, a hockey tournament and more. And important to note: admission to both days of Barbegazi is free. Past attendance has been in the 5,000 to 6,000 range, but the expectation for this year’s festival is different.
Some of the programme changes include the lumberjack events, which have been cut (sawn?) this year. “Unfortunately, we won’t be bringing it back this year because the [competitors] weren’t available for our dates,” explains Desforges, emphasizing the need to shake things up every year. “We do have plans to bring them back next year, but this year we wanted to try a different formula and wanted to bring back the freestyle snowmobile guys who weren’t there last year.”
The freestyle snowmobile events have been a consistent hit with festivalgoers (“People like taking pictures of the snowmobiles flying through the air next to the Olympic Stadium”). Their return will be complemented this year by the addition of wild wintry obstacle course races and a two-day hockey tournament (which elevates the game with $1,500 in cash prizes), both of which are open to the public, as are the fatbike race and snowskate best trick competitions. For its part, the obstacle course races feature a 300-foot long course with eight to 10 different obstacles.
“It’s basically a sprint where you want to finish as fast as you can,” says Desforges. “It’s a one-on-one race and there are some prizes to be won but it’s really more for fun, just to keep people active and encourage them to play outdoors. Everyone can participate and, like for all the activities, there’s just a registration fee.”
The hockey tournament will take place on an NHL regulation-size hockey rink on the Esplanade Financière Sun Life and is open to all. The five-on-five tournament will be capped at 12 teams and teams can register on the Barbegazi website.
Also new this year is a canine component (“We have sled dogs so people can cruise around the Olympic Stadium in dogsleds”). Unchanged will be the food trucks, DJs and energized outdoor ambiance. When asked what he’s most looking forward to this year, Desforges doesn’t hesitate.
“Two things,” he says. “The obstacle race is fun because in the winter it’s harder and harsher to compete in the cold. I’ve gotten calls from people who are super-hyped to compete. There are serious guys and girls who train for obstacle races, and for them it’s exciting to do it outside in the cold. And obviously the hockey tournament because hockey is always a good time. I think Barbegazi is more and more a festival where people can come and enjoy doing things and not just seeing things, and hockey fits well with this direction.”
Check out the Barbegazi website for the full schedule of events and information.
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