Showing posts from 2014

Klunen: my new favourite skating word

It's March. It's still cold and snowy. It has been an amazing winter for skating, but I am ready for spring.

I'm planning to be back at Greenwood Park this Sunday afternoon, for what I think will be the last Great Skate of the season.

Meanwhile, here are some things I have discovered during my Great Skate Project:

The Greatest Skating Race
My friend Skye recommended this lovely story by Louise Borden to me. It's about a young boy in the Netherlands named Piet. He dreams of skating in the Elfstedentocht, a legendary 200km skating event that's held whenever the winter is cold enough. But it's 1941, and Piet faces a different challenge: to help two of his schoolfriends escape across the border to Brugges by skating along the canals.

The Greatest Skating Race includes vocabulary notes, and this is one of the new words I learned. "Klunen" is a Flemish word meaning "to walk on land on skates." You might say that "klunen"…

At the Murray Street rink again

By happy chance, my parents live just a short walk away from the Murray Street Park rink in Orillia. After discovering it for Great Skate #9, it has become familiar territory.

I was able to skate there twice this month. The first time, my mother joined me. I have photos to prove it.

I thought mum was very brave to try skating again after many years off the ice. She was dismayed at how unsteady she felt, but made it to one side of the rink and back again.

I was impressed. Mum was not. "I can't believe it, I thought it would be like riding a bike." (The question arises, when was the last time mum was on a bike?)

The next weekend, the entire family was up for a visit. We headed to the rink on Sunday morning, fired up about Canada's gold-medal men's hockey game.

This time my dad was brave enough to put his skates on. No photographic evidence this time, but he made it about as far - and felt just as unsteady - as my mum did the previous weekend. The lesson here, I th…

Great Skate #25 - Washago Rink (Simcoe County)

After the disappointment of Great Skate #24, my dad and I headed up Highway 11 to Washago, on the north end of Lake Couchiching.

This tiny town has a skating rink that's pretty close to the platonic ideal. It restored my faith in small community rinks.

Surrounded by boards (and snow drifts), the rink has easy access to the warmth (and washrooms) of the community centre next door. A picnic table surrounded by rubber mats makes it easy to change into and out of your skates. The ice was in decent shape, a bit rough but certainly skateworthy.

The rink is big enough to accommodate a hockey game, which means there's lots of room for kids to play shinny while other skaters do laps and practice their glides. There were about a dozen people there when we arrived, and more coming on when we left.

I was hoping my dad would join me on this rink, but he changed his mind.

Maybe I shouldn't have made fun of his skates. (If mine are vintage, his look like antiques.)

Great Skate #24 - Couchiching Beach Park (Orillia)

Last Saturday I was at the Couchiching Beach Park skating rink in Orillia. It was the first time the Great Skate Project visited a rink that was actually on a lake. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment.

The weather was perfect - brilliant blue skies, lots of sunshine, crisp cold temperatures and no wind. It hadn’t snowed for a few weeks, but the landscape was still transformed by the snow that had fallen, drifted and been piled up earlier this winter. 
According to the City of Orillia website, the rink’s ice condition is “dependent on ice thickness.” That’s impressively obvious yet vague. “Not good” would have been a more accurate description.
The rink is a very big rectangle near the marina. The easiest access point is from the boat launch ramp, about 20 feet from the rink. 
When my dad and I got to the rink, there were just a few people there. The deepest snow had been cleared from the ice previously but there was still a thick layer of frost on the surface. Two guys had brought t…

Cold winters, now and then

Last winter I spent a lot of time wishing it was colder. Mild weather made the ice mushy, and I idealized the frosty conditions that would lead to a perfect rink.

This winter I got what I wished for. The ice rinks have been in excellent shape. But just getting home from work without hypothermia seemed like a triumph some days. (I exaggerate, but not by much.) Summoning the energy to leave my cosy house to voluntarily spend time in arctic weather was daunting. I wondered if I should start a new blog called the Great Hibernation Project.

Now the days are getting lighter and the cold snap is easing. My Great Skate adventure isn't over yet! This weekend, I'll be looking for a new rink to skate on in Orillia.

Until then, here are some photos of my grandmother, taken when she was in her late teens, enjoying a frosty day of skating in North Bay. (I miss you, Grandma!)

This snapshot was taken in 1941.

There's no date on this photo. Love the mittens!

The last two photos are both fr…

Great Skate #23 - Orchard Park

When people talk about outdoor rinks in Toronto, they are usually talking about the 53 artificial ice rinks operated by the city, plus the ones at Harbourfront and the Brickworks.

But there's another whole category of outdoor rinks in Toronto - the ones I call neighbourhood rinks. Unlisted on the city website, maintained by volunteers and completely dependent on the weather conditions, these natural ice rinks feel like secret spaces. You learn about them from people who live nearby, or by stumbling across them when you take a shortcut through a park. Or, when your five-year-old niece gets invited to a skating party and excitedly tells you about the rink afterward.
That's how I learned about the rink at Orchard Park (near Dundas and Coxwell). I checked it out on January 26.
The rink was empty when I arrived at noon, but the ice was clean and smooth. I sat on a nearby picnic bench to put on my skates. As I was lacing up, a woman passing by said "There's a skating party …

Skating news

Skating rinks have been in the news lately!

Skating on 10 rinks in one day
Globe and Mail reporter Marcus Gee recently took a break from covering the antics of Toronto City Hall to explore the city's rinks. In one day he skated on 10 rinks from one end of the city to the other. (The Great Skate Project has been to six of them - and this reminds me that I need to skate in the west end.)

Fun fact I learned from the article: it costs the city about $6 million a year to operate its rinks.

Read Marcus Gee's article about his city skating adventure here.

Watch this short video featuring his top 5 rinks

Toronto's outdoor rinks bring communities together
For some reason, an article about skating rinks in the "teeming metropolis of Toronto" ran recently in the Regina Leader-Post.  Read the article here

Toronto's Barbara Ann Scott rink is no more
I was sad to learn that site of the very first Great Skate is no longer open.
Read the National Post article about the closure of …

Great Skate #22 - Sherbourne Commons

On Saturday, January 18 I went skating on a rink on the edge of Lake Ontario: Sherbourne Commons.

The rink is located at the foot of Sherbourne, next to the new George Brown College and Corus Entertainment buildings. The Redpath Sugar Factory is nearby. Also Sugar Beach - which is a lot more appealing in July.

It's all part of the Waterfront Toronto redevelopment project, revitalizing industrial lands into something more enjoyable.

It's a great idea, although the area still feels more remote than it actually is. Looking out on a harbour like this makes me think of Thunder Bay (never been there, maybe it's not like this at all), not Toronto:
When I got to the rink in the middle of the morning, there were just two other skaters. The ice was in perfect condition. I did clockwise laps until more skaters showed up. There were probably close to 20 of us by the time I left.
It's a lovely rink - no gerbil cage! And the ice was in great condition.
One of the other skaters aske…

Great Skate #21 - Greenwood Park (renovated)

The weather on Sunday, January 5 was mild and snowy - a perfect day for skating. My friends and nieces joined me at the Greenwood Park rink. Those of you keeping track might notice that Greenwood has already had its Great Skate, but it's had such a dramatic makeover since then that I'm counting it as a new rink.

Two years ago, at Great Skate #8, the Greenwood Park rink looked like this:

It was a typical Toronto rink. Not beautiful, but it did the job.

Last winter, the rink was closed for renovations. It reopened in November, looking like the winner of a skating rink beauty contest:

It used to be a single ice rink surrounded by a chain link fence, where you might feel a bit like a gerbil in a cage (if gerbils could skate). Now Greenwood Park has two rinks. One, used for shinny and skating lessons, is covered by a snazzy roof (which probably has some practical, keep-the-ice-icy purpose). The other rink is a figure-eight style trail, with lots of seating around it and also easy a…