'Don't try to beat a snow storm': mushers' advice after spending 60 hours stranded

After a massive winter storm cloaked the province, stranding hundreds of truckers and travellers this past week, one Manitoba man has some advice: don't try to beat a storm.

Serge Garand was one of nine people who spent 60 hours stranded on a northern Manitoba highway 40 kilometres from Leaf Rapids after the blizzard rolled in Monday night.

"All of the way up we were ahead of the storm so we figured if we just kept pushing on we could probably beat it," Garand said.

The musher was travelling with his wife Rachel and 14-year-old musher Ryley Froelich, to a dogsled race in the remote community of Brochet, Man.

"Our friend that was two hours ahead of us made it to Lynn Lake, no issues, no problem," he said, so they decided to keep driving.

By 10 p.m. on Monday, high winds and heavy snow fall brought whiteout conditions and frigid temperatures.

Garand said snow was drifting onto the highway and he was following two narrow ruts with a wall of snow on either side. The trio pushed through for another hour until they met drifts more than a metre tall.

"We got out of the wind and just kind of parked around some trees and all that and just hunkered down basically," Garand said.

He was travelling with 28 sled dogs in a back trailer. The group had stocked up on food supples and warm clothing for their trip but they didn't expect to be stranded as long as they were.

'It was survival mode'

They made it through two nights, keeping warm with the truck running. By the third night the truck had run out of gas and temperatures continued to plunge below –30 C.

"It was survival mode at that point," Garand said. "But we're dog mushers and we're always ready for weather, so we put on as many layers as we could and tried to sleep the night but it got pretty cold."

Garand said his sled dogs were safe. They have their own cabins in the back of his truck and they're paired up to stay warm, he said.

That night the group brought four dogs into their cabin so they could keep warm. 

By morning, Garand decided if no help came he would hook up the dogs and sled to safety. But by 5 a.m. help arrived.

"We all got up out of joy and got out of the truck and we were greeted by a loader at first and then a grader," he said. 

Garand said they are so thankful for the local officials and RCMP's help. They're now en route to Moose Lake to catch another sled race.

His takeaway from the ordeal was simple: "don't try to beat a snow storm," Garand said.