Toronto gets ready for winter with full opening of all outdoor ice rinks and trails

The city's winter-long program has returned for all residents and families to enjoy outdoor amenities

Public enjoying a night session skate at the popular outdoor ice rink at Nathan Phillip Square. (Kayla Speid/Unsplash) 

Toronto opened its remaining outdoor ice rinks across the city on Dec. 2, in addition to the 40 rinks it recently opened as part of its Welcome TO Winter program.

Residents can look forward to family activities such as figure skating, shinny, ringette and more on the public ice facilities, which also include skating trails that will open in the coming days.

In total, more than 50 spots will be open across the city.

“I encourage all Toronto residents to stay active this winter and enjoy all of the wonderful Welcome TO Winter Activities that are available to them,” said Mayor, Olivia Chow in a city press release.

The annual program also invites residents to enjoy access to public parks throughout the winter with 28 hills accessible for tobogganing. Seven snow loops will be formed across four local golf courses for leisurely walking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

An important community space

Outdoor skating rinks allow for communities to embrace the cold by staying active during the winter season. These facilities also serve as important spaces for social gatherings, one user said.

The outdoor ice rink at Westway Park in Etobicoke holds a special place in the heart of resident Corey Henders, 27, who began playing pick-up hockey at the rink in his teenage years.

“This is where I met a lot of my current friends and is my go-to place to catch up with friends from high school,” Henders said.

Toronto’s indoor ice rinks require an entrance or booking fee to use during unsupervised hours. Outdoor rinks, however, have appealled more to the public as admission and lending programs come at no cost.

“A big part of having the ability to play at a city-run rink is affordability, with indoor rinks costing a lot,” Henders said.

Last winter, the city’s outdoor ice rinks welcomed over 500,000 visitors in roughly 62,000 hours of operation.

Accessible to everyone

In partnership with the City of Toronto and Desjardins Group, the Skate Lending Library will be returning to a select number of outdoor ice rinks this winter. The initiative offers skating gear to support children, youth and adults participating in the winter activity.

“In having access to skates, helmets and skate aids, residents of all ages and proficiencies can experience the joy of skating,” Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said in a city press release.

The mobile lending library will appear at 31 locations in Toronto to provide pairs of skates and helmets, along with skate aids to residents and families. Lendings are free of charge and no prior bookings are required.

Sledge rentals are also offered, via advance booking, for people with disabilities to participate in the fun. The device can be booked 10 days in advance by contacting the Adapted and Inclusive Recreation Services Hotline at 416-395-6128 or by emailing [email protected].

East York’s Withrow Park was one of 40 locations to open an outdoor ice rink on Nov. 25. (Christian Larsen/Toronto Observer)

Concerns over early rink closures?

Warmer temperatures, in recent years, have hampered the city at earlier periods than anticipated, disrupting winter programs and causing temporary closures of Toronto’s outdoor rinks. Climate change has sparked public concerns regarding rink maintenance.

“Anytime something shuts down early, there is always cause for concern,” Henders said. “There are times the ice is mush or the rink is not playable.”

Despite predictions for a colder winter, Toronto staff are implementing procedures to ensure artificial ice rinks (AIR) across the city remain cool during periods of fluctuating weather.

“AIRs use refrigeration systems to keep the ice surface cold. To maintain the ice, staff will flood the ice regularly using ice resurfacing machines. Ice resurfacing is different at each facility and is determined by the programming scheduled and weather,” a city representative told the Toronto Observer via email.

Residents are encouraged to check the status of outdoor rinks before heading out.

All outdoor rinks will operate daily from 10 a.m to 10 p.m. The city is planning to keep the artificial ice rinks running until March 17, 2024.

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Posted: Dec 2 2023 1:00 pm
Filed under: News Things to do