Skating Around Covid

Recently a loyal reader suggested I write about places to skate in Toronto. This seemed a little awkward because I haven’t skated since I was in grade 8. Along with other girls in my class, I used to go to the arena on Saturdays – not to skate, mind you – but to meet boys! At this point I don’t know where my skates are. But I remember they are white with blue furry covers and little tassels on the laces. Very flirty.

As for Peter’s skating history, he is much more athletic them I am, but he hasn’t skated lately either. The last time was when our grand daughter Agnes, who was about 7 at the time, took him to the local arena and, well, let’s just say she was better.

Anyway, despite these disadvantages, I started doing some research. Did you know that Toronto is the World Capital of mechanically-cooled outdoor rinks? We have 60 of them. That’s pretty…ah…cool! Many of them are just rectangular neighbourhood ice pads, with fences and maybe a couple of benches where you can sit to change your footwear. There are a few with washrooms and some serve hot chocolate.

Then there is the iconic skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square. It has all the extras – washrooms, skate rentals, a snack bar, lighting and music. It also has crowds. Another ice rink, one that is new this winter, has popped up on Front Street. it is not so fancy, but it has a view of two Toronto landmarks – Union Station and the Royal York Hotel. It also has chair apparatuses for adults learning to skate.

Nathan Phillips Square and Front Street

Next I decided to check out a couple of “skating trails.” Instead of rectangular rinks where you go around and around, usually counter-clockwise for some unknown reason, skating trails meander somewhere, for example, through the woods. The first one we visited was Sam Smith Park on a Humber College campus near Lake Ontario. Peter joined me on a dreary, drizzly day and we were actually surprised to see skaters and ice! We watched as they glided through the trees, in time to piped-in music. Then the skaters noticed us and yelled “Where are your skates?” We smiled and headed back to the car.

On another day we went to The Bentway. This trail is situated under the Gardiner Expressway, on land that really isn’t good for much else. On the day we went to watch, there were 100 skaters on the ice and about 50 more waiting in line. The music blared out as the skaters followed the 220-meter trail around and about. An art show is advertised, but we didn’t see any sign of it on that day.

The Bentway
Sam Smith Park

One of the most popular places to skate in the city is High Park, where there is an outdoor rink. But there is also Grenadier Pond. This pond used to be marked by flags indicating the ice thickness and relative safety, and was very popular. But there were a couple of accidents where skaters ignored flags and suffered the consequences. So now the pond is off-limits to skaters, frozen or not.

Which brings me to the point that skating is not the safest activity for our time. Even as an outdoor activity which can cut down the risk of covid germs, there is still danger. The ice could melt or, even worse for us older adults, we could slip and fall. Just ask the loyal reader who suggested this topic – she had a spill recently and is down to one arm for a while. So stay safe out there! Maybe just buy some hot chocolate and enjoy the view.


4 thoughts on “Skating Around Covid

  1. That was so interesting, Sue! Thanks again. Great pics too.
    My memories of skating include my mother locking me out of the house (Go skate! she said) with skates last year’s size…so do I like skating? Ask my beleaguered toes. BUT a winter skating tour of the Rideau River/Canal…yes to that!


  2. Hi Sue,
    The reason that you skate counter clockwise on an ice pad is because it’s far easier for almost all skaters to turn to their left than to their right. Could that be true? Well, I think so. I am sticking with that explanation.
    Thanks for the blog. Really enjoy it.
    Happy New Year to you and Peter.
    Your friend, Blair


  3. So funny Sue….I went skating every Friday night in Grade 8 too. Think it was more about the socializing with the boys than the skating. Great memories. The last time I skated was on a pond at Peter’s golf club, Summit, it was a freezing day, had to put my daughters skates on at the pond, my fingers were frozen by the time I laced up and we lasted for less than ten minutes. The member I went skating with suggested we go into the club and warm up with a shot of Brandy. The girls had a hot chocolate.


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