Ah, Winnipeg. Our eccentric neighbors to the north aren’t just at the center of the continent. They’re at the center of a controversially absurd—or absurdly controversial—designation, a did-ya-know that draws attention on both sides of the border as each cold winter sets in. Is it true that this mid-sized metropolis of the Canadian prairies, a city with some of the most unforgiving winters in Canada, has a year-round city-wide craving for slushed ice and syrup? Why is Winnipeg the Slurpee capital of the world? We’ll try to explain as best we can.
Hair of the Dog—or Polar Bear?
Manitoba, with its higher latitude and without any mountains or bodies of water that might mitigate matters, is one cold province. Average highs in December and January hover around 10 degrees—and we’re trying to give them a break by putting it in Fahrenheit. That’s not even taking wind chill into account out on that unforgiving prairie. It’s weather that would be conducive to coffee or hot cocoa as the preferred drink of Manitobans, right? Perhaps there’s something to be said for not even trying to take to a drink that the weather would sap of its heat anyway. You’ve heard of fighting fire with fire—Winnipeg fights ice with ice. Hey, the ice may as well be sweet.
Counting Loonies, Trying Not to Say…
Winnipeggers are a shrewd bunch. Not far from the famous corner of Portage and Main, once the financial epicenter of western Canada, you’ll find dueling dollar stores. There may be some financial considerations to this slushy-drink fascination. Whether it’s hot or iced, Starbucks is pretty pricey. If we’re going to talk about cost per ounce, you’re getting a good bang for your buck with a Slurpee. It’s just as well—tickets to see the city’s beloved Jets are anything but a bargain, so every penny counts.
One Great Slush-Loving City!
Perhaps we’re overanalyzing things. Is Winnipeg’s obsession with chilly slushes really a way of demonstrating that trademark Prairie stoicism, laughing in the face of that sharp wind by reaching for a frigid treat? It makes for a good story, but it’s likely that the reason why Winnipeg is the Slurpee capital of the world is simply a matter of good taste. Concentrated fruit flavors are hard to argue with if you have a sweet tooth, as most of us do. And it’s not just Winnipeg that’s falling for the treat—more and more establishments are adding slushie machines to meet demand, taking different machines’ specifications into consideration. Winnipeg’s native son Neil Young sang that only love can break your heart. Perhaps Slurpees can win it back.