Great Skate #43: Lansdowne Skating Court, Ottawa

My trip to Ottawa was timed perfectly for a period of frigid temperatures that had even the winter-hardy locals staying indoors. On the morning of January 5, when I skated at the Lansdowne Skating Court, the windchill made it feel like -30 Celsius. Environment Canada had issued an extreme cold and frostbite warning.

Unsurprisingly, I was the only person at the rink.

When it's extremely cold, the smart thing to do is stay inside. But if you must go out, here is some cold weather clothing advice from City of Ottawa:

Layer 1 – the layer closest to your skin should be clothing that wicks moisture away
Layer 2 - a warm insulating layer such as a sweater or sweatshirt
Layer 3 – an outer layer that protects you from wind and moisture
Cover as much exposed skin as possible to prevent frostbite. Mittens or gloves, hats and scarves are very important to protect against heat loss and frostbite. Boots should be warm and preferably waterproof.

Here's what I was wearing:
2 pairs of socks (thin…

Looking Forward to Great Skates in 2018

As I write this, it's bitterly cold in Toronto and even colder elsewhere. Perfect weather for Year 7 of my Great Skate Project.

In January 2012, I set myself a goal: to skate at as many outdoor rinks as I can, and to share those stories on this blog. It has given me an opportunity to explore different neighbourhoods, spend time with family and friends, meet new people and get fresh air and exercise.

This year I'm looking forward to skating in Ottawa, as well as at new and newly renovated rinks in Toronto, and I'll likely be skating in Orillia again too. It's going to be great.

Great Skate #42: Regent Park, Toronto

Great Skate #42 took place on February 20, 2017 at Regent Park. It was a holiday Monday, and I had spent the previous days north of the city, where there was two feet of snow on the ground. But in Toronto, the streets were snow-free and the sky was a brilliant blue.

The Regent Park rink was renovated a few years ago as part of the neighbourhood's redevelopment, which converted sub-standard social housing into a mixed-income community that includes recreation and cultural amenities. The rink itself is a basic hamster-cage hockey pad, next to a spacious and well-equipped rink house.

Despite the sun and mild temperatures, the ice was in good shape. I was one of a handful of skaters, who also included a father and son doing hockey drills at one end of the rink, and a few fellows doing steady laps like me.

Alongside the rink is a soccer field, and a game was underway while we skated. Beyond that, kids were shooting hoops on the basketball court. There was a definite sense that the year…

Great Skate #41: Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Toronto

After the thrill (and cost) of skating in New York City, it was interesting to skate in Toronto again and notice the differences.

On January 29, I went to the rink in Trinity-Bellwoods Park in the west end with my oldest niece, who is now Ten. It was a long streetcar ride to get there, and then a fair hike from the park entrance to the rink. The rink itself is the basic standard for rinks in this city: a single ice pad, surrounded by "hamster cage" fencing, with some benches near the rink. A short walk away is the changeroom/staff office, which has washrooms. No special amenities, no music, no frills. But also, no admission fee.

While it's basic, the Trinity-Bellwood had everything we needed for a good afternoon of skating. There were a dozen or so skaters with us on the ice. Some were proficient skaters, some were taking their first wobbly glides. And something similar was happening in parks across the city.

The Trinity-Bellwood rink is one of 52 outdoor artificial ice* …

Great Skate #40: Bryant Park, New York City

The rink at Bryant Park doesn't have the same "I saw it in the movies" cachet as the rinks at Central Park and Rockefeller Center, but it is pretty spectacular.

The rink is the centrepiece of Bryant Park's Bank of America Winter Village. Chalk up a point in favour of corporate sponsorships: admission to this rink is free. (I did pay for a lock to secure my locker though.)

The amenities include a spacious changeroom, a snack bar and skate rentals. Also, a platoon of penguins and snowmen that unsteady skaters can use to keep their balance.

There were lots of good things about this Great Skate, but here's what I got excited about: the skating direction was clockwise. Skating clockwise is a very rare thing on public ice rinks.

I asked one of the staff members if they always skated clockwise. He said that the skating direction was counter-clockwise in the mornings, and clockwise in the afternoons. So sensible.

On a Friday afternoon, the rink was busy but not crowded. …

Why I did not skate at Rockefeller Center

Along with Central Park, the rink at Rockefeller Center is what everyone thinks about when you say "I went skating in New York City."

But I did not skate at Rockefeller Center. Why?

Because the admission fee is $25 U.S. (And that's the cheaper, off-season rate. It goes up to $32 during most of December.)

I discovered that there is a limit on what I am willing to pay for a Great Skate experience.

Photos were free, however.

Great Skate #39: Wollman Rink, Central Park, New York City

When I had the opportunity to come to New York for a conference this week, I was very excited to be able to take my Great Skate Project international. I researched the rink options, circled them on my map, and made room in my luggage for my skates.

Skating in Central Park was high on my list. I didn't realize at first that there are actually two rinks in Central Park: the Wollman Rink and the Lasker Rink. Wollman was closer to my hotel, so I headed there in the evening of January 11. (And I only got a little bit lost on the way.)

Unsurprisingly, skating in New York City is a more commercial enterprise than in Toronto. The Wollman Rink admission fee (in U.S. dollars) is $12 from Monday to Thursday, and $19 from Friday to Sunday. (It's cheaper for children). A locker rental is $5 with a $6 refundable deposit, and you can rent skates for $9. A snack bar sells everything from sandwiches to cotton candy.

I think it's worth it. How often do you get to feel like you're skatin…