It was made official on Monday. The river trails at The Forks won’t be opening this year.
The non-start can be blamed on a higher-than-normal water level and an uneven freeze, but playing the blame game doesn’t get to the crux of the issue: how, without these beloved record-breaking river trails, are Winnipeggers supposed to get their outdoor skating fix this winter?
It turns out there is plenty of local ice to skate away on — including some little-known gems.
The largest roster of outdoor skating amenities is maintained by the City of Winnipeg, which operates 38 outdoor pleasure rinks, 13 indoor arenas and three ponds at Kildonan Park, Harbourview Recreation Complex and St. Vital Park.
Organized hockey games aren’t allowed at most locations, so these rinks are suitable for families and beginner skaters. A list of outdoor rink locations and a schedule of free skating times at indoor arenas are available on the city’s website.
Below are five alternative places to lace up in Winnipeg this winter.
Arctic Glacier Winter Park, The Forks
The rivers may be off limits, but the ground-level rinks and skating trail at The Forks are fair game.
Arctic Glacier Winter Park includes more than a kilometre of cleared ice trails that connect the skating rink under the canopy to the hockey rink at the CN Stage. The trails are designed to be toured at a leisurely pace with ample opportunity to pull over for selfies along the way — the twinkling archway and section over the old rail bridge are popular spots.
The Forks also has a skate-sharpening and rental shop. Iceland Skate Rentals is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and rates are $4 for children and seniors and $6 for adults. Skate sharpening is $6.
Extra programming happens at the winter park on Sundays all season, including horse-drawn wagon rides, Indigenous storytelling and afternoon dance parties at the canopy rink with tunes by DJs Hunnicut and Co-op.
Roblin Park Community Centre
Most Winnipeg community centres are flanked by at least one outdoor rink. Roblin Park Community Centre in Charleswood boasts three rinks, a skating trail and two ice slides for tobogganing, all of which are maintained by the centre’s longtime iceman, Marcy Beaucage.
Visitors can lace up their skates and warm up inside the centre from 4 to 10 p.m. on weeknights and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. You’ll need to bring your own blades and crazy carpets are recommended for use on the ice slides.
The rinks and skating trail will be bustling later this month, when Roblin Park hosts its annual week-long winter carnival Jan. 20-26.
You can find information on community centre’s skating amenities in your neighbourhood by searching the database on the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres’ website.
What started as a backyard rink project has turned into a backyard skating trail for the whole community. This winter, a pair of anonymous Island Lakes residents have taken it upon themselves to clear a lengthy trail on the man-made retention ponds in the middle of the neighbourhood in southeast Winnipeg.
The trail loops around the frozen basins and through the giant drainage tunnels that run underneath residential roads. It’s accessible wherever the ponds are visible, suggested launch points are public greenspaces like Waterfront Park on Waterfront Road or Lindsey Wilson Park on Island Shore Boulevard.
Keep in mind that skating at this location should be done at your own risk as the city doesn’t recommend using retention ponds for winter recreation activities.
A pleasure rink has also been installed in the community at Seigneurie Park off 175 de la Seigneurie Blvd.
Old Market Square
A hot spot for live music during the summer, Old Market Square has been yet again transformed into a hub for urban skating this winter.
The rink project in front of The Cube was spearheaded by Exchange District business owners Nick Van Seggelen of Bodegoes and Mike Del Buono of King + Bannatyne four years ago. The city has since taken over flooding the rink at the corner of King Street and Bannatyne Avenue and the ice surface has been expanded this year.
The rink also includes a curling sheet with rocks supplied by the Exchange District BIZ via a "curling concierge" service. Those interested in curling can text 204-688-3191 and a BIZ staff member will deliver a set of rocks to the rink. This service is available daily throughout the winter — visit exchangedistrict.org for more information.
Riley Family Duck Pond, Assiniboine Park
The Zoo Lights Festival wrapped up last weekend, but there’s still plenty of winter fun to be had at Assiniboine Park.
The Riley Family Duck Pond has taken on its seasonal identity as a skating rink and the nearby toboggan hill is an ideal spot for sliding. The skating rink is fully lit and early risers can enjoy suiting up in the heated shelter next to the pond from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
There are also several kilometres of groomed trails for freestyle and classic cross-country skiing throughout the park. A map is available on Assiniboine Park’s website and trail condition updates are posted to Twitter.
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Monday, January 13, 2020 at 9:20 AM CST: Corrects that Marcy Beaucage is Roblin Park's iceman