Showing posts from February, 2015

Great Skate #32 - The Shops at Don Mills skating rink

On Friday, February 27, 2015, my friend Cathy braved the cold to join me at the Shops at Don Mills for Great Skate #32.

The skating rink is a small oval in the centre of an open-air shopping plaza. It's surrounded by high-end stores and restaurants, making skating there quite a different experience from my recent adventure at Arrowhead Provincial Park.
We were the only skaters there when we arrived. Soon we were joined by three others. If the mall is counting on the rink to attract more potential customers, they might need to rethink that strategy. Or maybe it was just too cold or too early in the evening for many people to be out.
Skating with a friend is a terrific way to catch up with each other's lives. It's a bit like having a conversation in a car - the sense of forward movement keeps the ideas and questions flowing.
Of course, sitting in a cosy cafe and enjoying a hot cup of tea also fosters good conversation. That's the nice thing about skating at a mall. When …

Great Skate #31 - Glen Stewart Park Rink

This weekend, 34 of the City of Toronto's 51 outdoor artificial ice rinks were scheduled to close for the season. For many people, this didn't make any sense: we've been beset by an epically cold winter, so why shut down skating rinks just when Torontonians are getting the hang of dressing for the weather and amusing ourselves outdoors?

The answer, as usual, is money. It costs about $4,500 a week to operate each rink, according to the Globe and Mail. The city budget doesn't cover the cost of operating all 51 ice rinks for another month. It didn't in previous years either. Last year, corporate sponsors stepped up to bankroll some of the rinks scheduled to close, and that happened this year as well. So now 29 rinks will stay open until March 22.

I'm glad more rinks are staying open. But I'm finding it hard to scrape up any outrage over the fact that some rinks are being closed.
Community-Run Rinks in Toronto Here's why: even with the rink closures, Toront…

Great Skate #30: Arrowhead Provincial Park

The skating trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park opened in 2012, but I first started hearing about it last year. I put it on my wish list, but wasn't sure if schedules, weather and transportation logistics would ever align for me to skate there.

On Saturday, February 14, everything aligned. Watch my video of what it's like to skate on the Arrowhead skating trail:

Arrowhead is just north of Huntsville, Ontario. It's many hours north of my neighbourhood in Toronto, but not so far from where my parents live in Orillia. I was visiting Mum and Dad this weekend, and they were somewhat surprisingly game to go on this adventure with me. The weather on Saturday had warmed up to -12 Celsius. The sun was shining and the roads were clear. So, dressed in many layers, we set off.

Everything went smoothly until we got to the park entrance. It's about a kilometre from the highway turnoff to the park gate, and a long line of cars was snaked along the entire distance. We persevered, and a…

Great Skate #29: Dufferin Grove Park

On Sunday, February 7, I finally got around to skating at Dufferin Grove Park, a rink that has been on my "must skate" list since the Great Skate Project began. My sister and my nieces joined me, and also my brother, who was testing his skating legs for the first time in more than 20 years.

Dufferin Grove is a park in Toronto's west end known for its strong community involvement. The skating facilities reflect this. The rink itself is a typical double-pad rink surrounded by a chain-link fence, but its "clubhouse" has real personality. The usual lockers-and-benches decor is augmented with mismatched chairs and tables, shelves of board games, and a wood stove. You can buy hot chocolate, hot dogs and other treats at the snack bar. A huge map of the neighbourhood is painted on one wall, while other walls are decorated with archival photos of the rink and posters of local events. There is also a skate rental booth ($2 per pair).

While we were there, both rinks were …

Great Skate #28 - North Toronto Memorial Community Centre

My friend Csilla, who goes skating with her family nearly every weekend, invited me to join them at their local rink, North Toronto Memorial Community Centre. I did on Saturday, January 24 - almost exactly two years since the last time I went skating with them. It was cold and overcast, but still great skating weather.

The rink is not beautiful, but the ice was in excellent condition. The double-pad facility means that there is always a rink available for pleasure skaters while shinny sessions and skating lessons run next door. When I arrived, a city-run skating lesson for parents and very small children was just getting underway.

Csilla's young son was also taking skating lessons, private ones organized with a friend. Their teacher set up an obstacle course of toys at one end of the rink for the boys to skate around. She also inflated a balloon and had them chase it while she darted it back and forth just beyond their reach.

On the neighbouring rink, parents and children gathered…