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OPINION: Calgary rekindles love affair with winter fun

I like to wander.

One of the things I love to do is wander not only my neighbourhood, but other Calgary communities. I want to see what I can discover about how Calgarians play in their ‘hood.  

I’m naturally curious. Some might say a busybody. 

With COVID-19, I’ve had to step up my game as it seems walking is the safest things we can do. It used to be when I went walking, the only people I would see were those walking their dogs. 

This winter, I’m pleased to see people, especially families, enjoying Calgary’s outdoor recreational activities: Skating, skiing, tobogganing and snowman-making.

Just out my front door four dads have built a skating rink in Grand Trunk Park. It’s attracting people I have never seen in the park before. 

I met a young professional couple who came over at noon hour to take a break from working at home. She obviously had some figure skating training and was doing lots of jumps and twists. 

We have toddlers learning to skate during the day and older kids at night (the dads added lights and a net at one end so pucks don’t go flying all over the place).  Old-timers in the ‘hood tell me there was a huge skating rink in the park in the 1950s. 

Rinks across Calgary

This winter I have eight outdoor skating rinks within a kilometre of my West Hillhurst home. All are busy with families and kids learning to skate and play hockey at all times of the day. 

My Twitter feed confirms this is happening across the city and country. 

Calgarians and Canadians have rediscovered the fun of skating outdoors, often as a family. 

I was most impressed by the Shaganappi Community Rink with its oval track with views of the downtown skyline.  Bridgeland/Riverside also have a lovely community rink with views of the downtown skyline. 

Seems no matter what neighbourhood I walk in, I find there’s a community ice rink. Turns out Calgary has more than 100 of them.  The Banff Trail rink has a full-size hockey rink with boards and lights – Hockey Night In Calgary every night!

(On a negative note,  I was surprised to find not all community rinks are open to public.  While  wandering Cranston I happened upon their gated community center and its rink. I was turned away as I wasn’t a homeowner. I know it’s private property but doesn’t seem fair they can come and use the inner city rinks, but we can’t use those managed by Homeowner Associations.) 

Beyond the city outdoor rinks

And it’s not just ice rinks.

I have found families creating little toboggan hills in their front yards. Tiny hills in playgrounds are now being used for sledding. In Capitol Hill, I found an amazing front lawn that had been converted into a winter patio with snow fence and fire pit.

On another street I found a snow fort on opposing front yards on either side of the street – I can only assume there had been one heck of a snow ball fight, or one was going to happen.  There are lots of tunnels for kids to crawl through. 

I have seen more snowmen and snow forts this year than in the past 10 years. 

I love how people have been getting creative with their snowmen, including four snow people in Mount Royal that would look at home in a contemporary art gallery.  In Hillhurst, there is a 6-foot high owl snow sculpture.

In East Village, a new free groomed 1-km cross country ski loop has been created at Fort Calgary.  And the City has created a new outdoor ice rink at Barb Scott Park in the Beltline. 

Back at Grand Trunk Park, the basketball players have left a shovel at the court so they can just shovel off the asphalt and shoot some hoops. 

I love it when there are multi-generational activities all happening at the same time. Teens and kids playing hockey on the rink; teens and young adults playing basketball on the court and toddlers at the playground. 

Last Word

It’s as if we’ve turned the clock back 70 years when Calgarians used to embrace winters outdoors. There were fewer indoor ice rinks and recreation centers with their multitude of indoor activities.   

I love seeing the kids on the rinks with no parents or coaches. 

It seems like we are back to free-range kids who are making their own fun, rather than being driven everywhere for organized activities.

It’s like I have been transported back in time to the 1950s and 1960s.