This former figure skater shook off her extreme hibernation and found freedom by rediscovering Toronto’s outdoor rinks

I’ve always been the indoors type, but the pandemic has dramatically increased my homebody tendencies. I’m too embarrassed to reveal how many consecutive days I have spent inside. Even in the summer as people flocked to Trinity Bellwoods and a car-free Lake Shore, I remained cocooned at home. According to the Health app on my iPhone, there was a day in July when I only took 172 steps. Then as the temperature dropped and Torontonians began mentally preparing for a long winter, I came to the horrible realization that I had squandered away the precious warm months. So when the city announced that skating rinks would open in November, I jumped at the chance to make up for lost time. I made a simple pact with myself: go skating as much as possible on as many different rinks as I could. In my teens, I was a competitive figure skater, so leisurely skating – devoid of sequins, axels and judges — brings me a lot of joy. It’s a way to clear my mind and feel connected to my body and the outside world. And after nearly a year of idleness, I desperately needed the motivation to get outside. The first rink I visited was Cedarvale Park, which is within walking distance of my house. All the reserved time slots were booked, so I waited in a makeshift rush line and crossed my fingers. It reminded me of trying to score tickets during TIFF. Eventually I was told to go ahead and I slipped on my old skates. I shared the ice with a gaggle of pre-pubescent boys in matching hockey jerseys who hastily weaved in between each other. I loved the sound of my blades carving into the ice. After around 30 minutes, my feet began to ache and my cheeks were freezing, but I felt reinvigorated. Since December, I’ve skated alongside young families at dusk in the BMX-park-turned-skating-pad at Wallace Emerson, and I’ve had nearly the entire ice to myself during chilly late nights at Dufferin Grove. One Friday night, I met friends at Sorauren Park, where we sipped red wine from mason jars as we circled the community-run rink. This was the closest I’d get to a night out for the foreseeable future. I’ve also explored areas of the city I had never seen before. One especially frigid Saturday afternoon, I trekked out to the southernmost tip of Rouge Park. The frozen river was busy with families who had shovelled out dozens of small makeshift rinks. I sat on a rock at the edge of the river, laced up my skates and gingerly stepped on the ice. It felt surprisingly smooth. I saw an opening off the main area and followed a path that twisted through frozen marshes, becoming a secluded trail bordered by trees and tall yellow grasses. I couldn’t believe this magical place existed just a 30-minute drive from my house. Skating through landscapes old and new has been cathartic, chilly and blissful, and it’s reconnected me with a city I’ve felt estranged from. Soon city skating rinks will close and the frozen ponds and marshes will melt. But I still have a few weeks left to make the most of it. Skate escape Rouge National Urban Park, 195 Rouge Hills Dr., Scarborough. Open 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (No reservation needed)Whether you skate in the main area near the parking lot or explore the marshes, this is a must-skate spot immersed in nature. If it has snowed recently, bring a shovel.Colonel Samuel Smith Park, 65 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Rd., Etobicoke. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. This elongated trail loops around landscaped wooded areas and is illuminated by old-timey lamp posts. The figure-eight shape is also a nice change from oval rinks. Wallace Emerson Park, 1260 Dufferin St. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.There are two spacious ice pads here, which means you are likely to get a walk-in spot even if you can’t snag a reservation in advance.

This former figure skater shook off her extreme hibernation and found freedom by rediscovering Toronto’s outdoor rinks

I’ve always been the indoors type, but the pandemic has dramatically increased my homebody tendencies. I’m too embarrassed to reveal how many consecutive days I have spent inside. Even in the summer as people flocked to Trinity Bellwoods and a car-free Lake Shore, I remained cocooned at home. According to the Health app on my iPhone, there was a day in July when I only took 172 steps. Then as the temperature dropped and Torontonians began mentally preparing for a long winter, I came to the horrible realization that I had squandered away the precious warm months. So when the city announced that skating rinks would open in November, I jumped at the chance to make up for lost time. I made a simple pact with myself: go skating as much as possible on as many different rinks as I could.

In my teens, I was a competitive figure skater, so leisurely skating – devoid of sequins, axels and judges — brings me a lot of joy. It’s a way to clear my mind and feel connected to my body and the outside world. And after nearly a year of idleness, I desperately needed the motivation to get outside.

The first rink I visited was Cedarvale Park, which is within walking distance of my house. All the reserved time slots were booked, so I waited in a makeshift rush line and crossed my fingers. It reminded me of trying to score tickets during TIFF. Eventually I was told to go ahead and I slipped on my old skates. I shared the ice with a gaggle of pre-pubescent boys in matching hockey jerseys who hastily weaved in between each other. I loved the sound of my blades carving into the ice. After around 30 minutes, my feet began to ache and my cheeks were freezing, but I felt reinvigorated. Since December, I’ve skated alongside young families at dusk in the BMX-park-turned-skating-pad at Wallace Emerson, and I’ve had nearly the entire ice to myself during chilly late nights at Dufferin Grove. One Friday night, I met friends at Sorauren Park, where we sipped red wine from mason jars as we circled the community-run rink. This was the closest I’d get to a night out for the foreseeable future.

I’ve also explored areas of the city I had never seen before. One especially frigid Saturday afternoon, I trekked out to the southernmost tip of Rouge Park. The frozen river was busy with families who had shovelled out dozens of small makeshift rinks. I sat on a rock at the edge of the river, laced up my skates and gingerly stepped on the ice. It felt surprisingly smooth. I saw an opening off the main area and followed a path that twisted through frozen marshes, becoming a secluded trail bordered by trees and tall yellow grasses. I couldn’t believe this magical place existed just a 30-minute drive from my house.

Skating through landscapes old and new has been cathartic, chilly and blissful, and it’s reconnected me with a city I’ve felt estranged from. Soon city skating rinks will close and the frozen ponds and marshes will melt. But I still have a few weeks left to make the most of it.

Skate escape

Rouge National Urban Park, 195 Rouge Hills Dr., Scarborough. Open 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (No reservation needed)

Whether you skate in the main area near the parking lot or explore the marshes, this is a must-skate spot immersed in nature. If it has snowed recently, bring a shovel.

Colonel Samuel Smith Park, 65 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Rd., Etobicoke. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This elongated trail loops around landscaped wooded areas and is illuminated by old-timey lamp posts. The figure-eight shape is also a nice change from oval rinks.

Wallace Emerson Park, 1260 Dufferin St. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

There are two spacious ice pads here, which means you are likely to get a walk-in spot even if you can’t snag a reservation in advance.

Source : Toronto Star More