Despite being a personal injury lawyer here in Hamilton, I still enjoy the thrill of getting out on to a fresh piece of ice every winter and testing out my summer rusted skills.
Gliding along the ice in the crisp, cold air is the quintessential Canadian winter sport and is definitely one of my favourites.
As a family outing, ice skating is ideal: everyone from toddlers up to seniors can enjoy a day or evening out on the ice. This low impact activity can even help those of us with issues with balance.
The movement forces you to make use of muscles that you might not otherwise use for walking or running, keeping you upright, and giving your core a good workout too. The hot chocolate with marshmallows after a good long skate is another great perk.
While there are rinks all over this great country, living in Ontario affords us some really wonderful locations to enjoy a trail skate, which is a unique experience and worth the effort of travelling for.
Here are a few options throughout south and central Ontario, including the GTA:
Ice Skating Trail At Arrowhead Provincial Park
Cottage country is beautiful in the summer but Muskoka in the winter is a sight to behold. This trail winds its way through the forest, taking skaters on a 1.3 km loop that is an experience worthy of the drive.
On select nights, the park hosts a Fire & Ice night, where the loop is open for night skating, illuminated by hundreds of torches along the way. With the snowy backdrop of sparkling evergreens, you’ll enjoy every minute of your skate.
A Skate At A Winery
If Arrowhead is full—as can happen on Saturdays through the season—you can head over to the Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery for a 1.2 km skating loop that takes you over the frozen cranberry ponds that make up a large portion of the farm.
Bordered by forest, with a waterfall enroute, this is an outing that should end back at the winery, where hot mulled wine or hot cran-apple cider are on offer. On Saturday nights, the farm lights the trail with torches for evening skating.
This public space under the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto is the latest skating spot in the GTA, beginning at Fort York and winding over to Bastion Street and back: a 220 metre figure 8. As their site says: “Skate the 8 in the Six!” Free and open throughout the skating season, you can rent skates, a helmet and even a skating aid, for the little ones.
Head up to Richmond Hill for another lovely skate, with a 250 metres of trail looping in natural green space, with lights for night time and heated change rooms.
It’s open until 10 p.m. with plenty of lighting, for an evening jaunt. If you can’t get enough through the winter, the trails are open in from April – November for inline skating too.
If you want to mix a little shopping in with your skating, head to the Shops at Don Mills.
Their oval, in the midst of shops and restaurants has fire pits for keeping warm and plenty of seating if you just want to watch from the sidelines. And when you’re tired from skating, you can stop in at one of several dining establishments to catch your breath and a great meal.
The city of Brampton has a couple of nice trail style options for getting out on the ice:
Gage Park Outdoor Skating Trail — Day or evening, through the trees of the park, you can skate for free, and warm up as you need to by a fire pit. Rentals are available Thursday – Sunday.
Chinguacousy Park Skate Trail — This winding trail is meant to replicate a canal, giving skaters over 2000 sq. metres of space to practice, even if you’re not the greatest skater, with natural bends and areas to stop easily. With seating along the edges, even the non-skaters can enjoy a visit
Right below the Peterborough Lift Lock, the Trent Severn Canal is available for skating. If you see a green flag up, you’re good to go.
Right on the edge of downtown Peterborough, there’s plenty to see, eat and drink after you’re done skating the canal. It’s a little closer than the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, but no Beavertails, unfortunately.
Island Lake Conservation Area
A little closer to Hamilton, in the Orangeville area, is the 1 km trail created at the Island Lake Conservation Area. There is also a cleared pond for a quick game of shinny, if that’s your preference, with benches to make it easier to get your blades on and get out there.
In the Hamilton area, we’re blessed with many rinks and arenas, but my family’s favourite by far is the Hamilton Waterfront Outdoor Rink at Pier 8. With rentals available and skating permitted until 10 p.m., it’s a great way to spend a winter evening, close to home.
I wouldn’t be my usual lawyer self if I didn’t mention a couple of safety points:
- Wear layers with water resistant outers, including gloves, to enjoy a warm and dry skate, even if you fall!
- Wear a CSA approved helmet.
- Make sure to get your skates sharpened every year: dull blades can actually make it harder to skate, which could lead to a fall.
- If you’re skating on ponds or natural areas, check for signage. The ice needs to be 4 inches thick to be safe!
So, with all that being said, go out there and have a wonderful time, while there’s still ice and snow to delight kids, big and small.