The mild winter has left a lot of open water on Winnipeg rivers and that has put the Red River Mutual Trail operated by The Forks in jeopardy.

Staff at The Forks say an extended stretch of cold weather is needed to build the trail on the rivers but if that doesn’t happen people can still skate at other areas at the site.

"We're always looking at the option of getting onto the Red and Assiniboine, first and foremost,” said Marketing and Communications Coordinator Kristin Pauls. “We also have on-land trails and they have been beautiful this year."

Students and staff in the University of Manitoba’s Architecture Department spent hundreds of hours designing a warming hut for the harbour at The Forks but now ice conditions won’t allow it to be built there.

"We were very excited and honoured to get the call to actually build a warming hut,” said Jason Hare, manager of the university’s fabrication lab.

Fortunately, the students chose an adaptable structure.

Working frantically over the Christmas holidays, they were able to re-design the warming hut.

It will now be displayed prominently on the foot bridge high above the harbour.

The innovative design calls for a fabric structure suspended by a series of cables.

After it’s built, the students will spray the outside with water and then cut the cables, leaving only a layer of ice to hold the structure in place.

"It'll be impressive,” said Hare, “Especially from below, how it's lit, the overall presence, and you can't help but engage with it, because it will take the whole portion of the bridge. You will have to transition through the structure."

The other warming huts will be placed around the overland skating trails at The Forks.

According to Pauls, there has only been one time in the 30-year history of the Red River Mutual Trail that the weather was so warm it could not be built on the rivers.