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Showing posts from 2013

The Great Skate glides again!

Some of Toronto's outdoor rinks opened on November 23rd. It seemed too soon. Didn't we just finish Halloween? But then a sudden cold snap made outdoor skating seem much more reasonable. 

The new rink at Greenwood Park was open, and I have skated there twice now, sort of a preview for Great Skate 2014. More on that later.
As I skated, I thought about everything I like about skating: It happens outside. (I'm always happier outside.)It's free (once you've got the skates).If you know how to skate, you can feel proud that you've figured it out - and if you're still learning, you can feel proud of making steady progress every time you try.I can't think of another pastime that involves people of all ages and skill levels, doing the same physical activity, on the same enclosed area, at the same time.If you're skating, you are probably skating counterclockwise, and we're not sure why.
In January, the Great Skate Project will resume - for the 3rd year! - …

Great Skate #20: Hodgson Public School

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Skating in Toronto in March is a bad news/good news situation.

The bad news: most of the city's outdoor rinks close at the end of February - even if there is still snow, and bitter winds, and freezing temperatures.*

The good news: if the rinks are closing, it means winter is coming to an end, despite the weather forecast.

The rink at Hodgson Public School was one of the few still open in Toronto last weekend, so my friend Cathy and I bundled up and headed there on Saturday, March 2 to squeeze in another skate before spring.

We arrived at about 10am, and there were just a few families on the ice, with a group of shinny players on the neighbouring rink. The ice was smooth and hard, and the school walls sheltered the wind.

By 11am, the rink was getting busy. With so many rinks closed, the remaining rinks are even more popular. We couldn't feel our toes by that point, so we called it quits and went for breakfast.




Why do ice rinks close even when the weather is cold? The angle of t…

Skating in Orillia again

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Orillia has seven public outdoor rinks. So far I've only skated on two of them - the Murray Street Park rink, and the First Baptist Church rink.

I was back in Orillia on the February 23/24 weekend, but didn't have a chance to add a new Great Skate site to my list. My dad and I drove out to Sparrow Lake, to see if there were any opportunities to skate there. But while the scenery was beautiful, and the ice was thick enough to support fishing huts, there wasn't a clear, smooth patch for skating. Even the rink at one of the local resorts was slushy and neglected.


Later, once my sister's family had arrived, the prospect of driving all over town with small children hoping that one of the new-to-us rinks would be in good condition wasn't very enticing. So we ended up back at Murray Street Park, which is so conveniently located just a few blocks from my parent's house.

There was a skim of snow on the ice, but otherwise it was perfect for skating. My nieces enjoyed sho…

Great Skate #19 - Alexandra Park

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Monday, February 18, 2013 was the Family Day holiday. It capped a busy weekend filled with errands, household improvements and visiting. In the afternoon, after all the family had gone home, I woke up from a nap and realized I had one weekend task still to do: skating.

Alexandra Park - at the top of the city's alphabetical list of rinks and easy to get to by transit - was where I ended up at about 4:30pm. It's not a particularly lovely rink, but it feels like part of the city fabric. The streetcar runs past it. You can see the CN Tower from it. Scadding Court Community Centre is next door. There's a Buddhist temple across the street, and the Toronto Western Hospital is a block away.

Shinny players filled one of the two rinks at the park. The other one was filled with about a dozen skaters, representing a wide range of pleasure skating categories:

two small boys who thought they were Gretzky(s)one couple, the female half demonstrating the twirls she had learned as a teenaged …

Great Skate #18 - Withrow Park

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On Friday, February 8 we had the biggest snowstorm Toronto's had in years. School buses were cancelled, businesses closed early, flights were delayed and I saw cross-country skiers on city streets.

But it takes more than high winds and a few feet of snow to stop the Withrow Park Neighbourhood Skating Party, hosted by the Friends of Withrow Park.


My friends had warned me that last year's party was so popular that there was barely room to move on the rink. This year the weather thinned the crowd, but there were still lots of skaters of all ages who stayed out for hours.

It was a great way to spend a dark and stormy night. (Although I think was was more exhausted from trudging through the snowdrifts to get there than I was by the actual skating.)




















I went back on Sunday afternoon, in much milder weather, for part two of Great Skate #18. I skated with my friend Jen and her girls, and then with my sister's family.




Rink Link update:

Found another great site: RinkWatch, "where …

Great Skate #17 - Colonel Sam Smith Skating Trail

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Do groundhogs skate? Last Saturday, February 2, seemed like the right day to find out. My friend Cathy joined me for Great Skate #17 at the Colonel Sam Smith Skating Trail in Etobicoke. It had been on our skating wishlist since last year. We didn't see any groundhogs, but skating on this trail was a lovely way to spend the morning.

The skating trail opened in 2010, and its one of the few non-rectangle outdoor rinks in Toronto. The trail is a sort-of-figure-eight shape that winds through trees and over a small bridge. As my friend Csilla told me, if you're expecting something like the Rideau Canal, you'll be disappointed, but it's much bigger than the Brickworks skating trail. And it's one of the best things you can do in Etobicoke.




You can change into your skates in the Power House Recreation Centre, which was built in 1888 as the heating plant for the neighbouring Lunatic Asylum, which is now Humber College. (I wonder if the college puts that fact in their promoti…

Great Skate #16 - Nathan Phillips Square

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Winter returned to Toronto this past weekend, but I didn't make it out to skate until Monday night. And then the wind was so bitter that I almost quit before I started. But missing a Great Skate two weeks in a row would not be good, so after work I headed out to the rink at Nathan Phillips Square.

I chose this rink because it's easy to get to, it wasn't booked for shinny, and there were sure to be other people around. (If you're going to skate in circles by yourself, it's nice to do it in a crowd.)

It always surprises me how many people are around wherever you go in the city, even when there's a severe windchill factor. There were a few dozen skaters at Nathan Phillips Square just after 6pm last night. Bundled in layers of winter gear, really wishing I hadn't left my hat behind on a streetcar earlier this week, I wanted to ask them all, what are you doing out here?

The answer of course is that they were having fun, skating. And I was too.

Great Skate #13: Ha…

New rink links

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This is not skating weather.

I was so happy with the snowy, frosty, freezy weather we were having. Now three warm days have melted everything and it feels like we've skipped a few months in the calendar.
So instead of actually skating, I'm updating the Rink Links. Here are some new ones:
How to Build an Ice Rink in Your Backyard (Source: Lifehacker, Jan. 4, 2013) For anyone who lives where it actually stays cold in the winter.
Best Backyard Rink contest hosted by CBC in PEI (Source: CBC) The winning rink is impressive!
The Shops at Don Mills skating rink (Source: Shops at Don Mills) A new possibility for the Great Skate location list.
Massey Lectures 2011: Adam Gopnick's meditations on winter (Source: CBC) I heard these lectures on the radio last year. There's a section about how ice skating in the 1800s came to be an approved activity that encourage flirtation and also allowed the working classes to experience some social mobility.

Skating on the Don River in 1910
(Source…

Great Skate #15 - Monarch Park

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On Saturday, January 5 my sister's family joined me for Great Skate #15 at Monarch Park. The girls - ages Two, Four and Six - were excited about skating again (although I think Four was a little concerned that she wouldn't remember how).





Great Skate #14 - Fairmount Park

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It's a new year, and a new chance to enjoy outdoor skating!

The goals of my Great Skate Project are simple: try to skate on a different outdoor rink each weekend, and encourage as many friends and family members to join me as possible.

Great Skate #14 - the first Great Skate of 2013, on New Year's Day - was a quiet one. Unlike last year, the weather was perfect for skating: cold and sunny, with lots of snow on the ground. I wasn't feeling ambitious, so I headed for Fairmount Park, not too far from where I live.

On my way there, I ran into my friend Mike. When I told him where I was headed, he told me he's one of the "ice masters" who volunteer their time to keep Fairmount's two natural ice rinks maintained. Way to go, Mike!


This photo shows one of the rinks. The other one is right next to it, but it isn't surrounded by boards. There's a picnic table and lights, but that's it.
Wondering why this rink is so empty on such a perfect day for skatin…