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Bone-chilling cold OK for some

Goods flying off shelf at battery business

The excessive cold weather is keeping people such as tow truck drivers and automotive battery salespeople extremely busy.

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The excessive cold weather is keeping people such as tow truck drivers and automotive battery salespeople extremely busy. (WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

While frigid temperatures have many people grumbling about the weather, some businesses are booming.

Brett Duseigne, owner of the Battery Man, compared the recent surge of battery sales to making hay in the summer while the sun shines.

"Automotive batteries have been flying off the shelf. When it gets past minus 25, batteries start failing," Duseigne said. "People are fighting tooth and nail to get quality batteries that'll fire up in the cold."

Duseigne said people need to know it's not always their battery's fault when their car won't start.

"We try to tell people they need to warm their cars up. The gas lines freeze, the oil is thick and everything has basically frozen solid," he said.

After the first snowfall in the middle of November, snowmobile sales started to rise at Rond's Marine Ltd.

Jeff Snowdon, sales manager at Rond's, said there's no question the cold is stopping some people from riding their snowmobiles, but not from buying a new one.

"We live where the temperature does happen to drop, but snowmobilers are a different type of people," said Snowdon.

CAA Manitoba spokeswoman Liz Peters said people going on vacation over Christmas usually have their trips planned well in advance, when it first starts getting cold. She said the best deals are at the start of the year and since people want to save money, there's always an increase in sales during January.

Assiniboine Park Zoo has offered free entry for kids 12 and under for the last two weeks, and attendance has been fairly steady. The toboggan hill and skating rinks in the park have been the main attractions.

"On warmer days, it gets really busy, but when it's minus 40, we see less people," said Laura Curtis, manager of communications at the zoo. "For the most part, people are braving the cold to come out to the zoo."

At FortWhyte Alive, it's the snowshoe trails and toboggan hills that are attracting visitors. On Christmas Eve, FortWhyte was packed, and even though there aren't many ice fishers hitting the holes, it's expected the fishers will return when the temperature warms.

"There's been a little bit of a drop when it's extremely cold, but people can come inside to warm up when they need to," said Jackie Stephens, director of operations at FortWhyte. "People seem to be anxious to get outside after the holiday indulgence, especially the kids."

CAA Manitoba has also broken records in the month of December, with just under 20,000 calls. Peters said on an average mild winter day, they'll receive around 300 calls. But when it gets frigid, they'll top out at anywhere from 800 to 1,400.

"We're as busy as we've been in the last 12 months, with an average of 700 calls a day," said Peters. "Right now, we're in the longest cold snap, and it gets hard to keep up. Our tow truck drivers work outside where skin freezes in minutes, and lots of times they can't wear gloves. It just slows everything down."

jesse.marks@freepress.mb.ca

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