Skating season has started in Calgary, with some pandemic adjustments

Olympic Plaza is always the first of Calgary's city-maintained outdoor rinks to open because of its refrigeration — and this year that's no different. 

Community rinks and outdoor city rinks will go ahead this winter

Calgarians line up at Olympic Plaza on a sunny Saturday to get a skate in. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Olympic Plaza is always the first of Calgary's city-maintained outdoor rinks to open because of its refrigeration — and this year that's no different. 

The City of Calgary is going ahead with all of its outdoor rinks, with some minor tweaks and changes because of the pandemic.

Working with AHS, the city's Todd Reichardt said skaters will notice a few changes, like fencing around Olympic Plaza as well as a 100-person limit.

But other rinks, as far as Reichardt knows, won't have capacity limits. The goal for this skating season is to be nimble to keep Calgarians safe. 

"We're in the fun business in parks," Reichardt said. "When it comes to skating we want to make it accessible to the public as best we can … but we also have to be mindful that we're not going to be creating an environment that would contribute to the incidents and the transmission of COVID."

With the city trying to encourage people to get outside, Reichardt said more fun is planned for the long Calgary winter — starting with fire pits. The city's parks department has a few on hand and Reichardt said some of them will be lent out to community associations. 

'Puts a smile on people's faces'

Others will be set up in key spots, like near the Eau Claire promenade.

"Again, being mindful of the social distance … there's something about being outside when it's cold and you smell like wood smoke and it's just it puts a smile on people's faces," Reichardt said. "I think that's what we're really genuinely hoping we can do."

Other outdoor rinks are coming along, but Reichardt said most likely won't be ready to skate on until a week before the holidays in December. 

And this year, there's a new addition: the North Glenmore Ice Trail. The ice trail is a pilot project where Calgarians can skate 730 metres of connected track through North Glenmore Park.

In Sunnyside, one community rink is already up and running. Volunteer Jim Besse says after 20 years, this is the earliest he's been able to flood, and open the rink. 

"It's very gratifying to see the kids have some sort of degree of normalcy in terms of playing outdoors," Besse said. "I mean, you can see this is still early in the day."

In terms of COVID-19, Besse said the city has provided those in the Adopt a Rink program signage reminding folks to keep their distance. 

A family enjoys a community rink in Calgary. (Helen Pike/CBC)

A week into its opening, the rink is already well used — games of hockey have started and some little ones are taking their first glides close to home.

Darvin Knorr and his family can see the rink from their nearby home. He said it's exciting to see the flooding start in the fall — a sign that winter is around the corner and it's time to lace up.

"It's a safe activity for us to do outdoors this year," Irena Knorr said. "So we definitely noticed a lot of people using the ice this year, maybe more than ever. But it's something that we can do safely." 

A full list of the city's outdoor rinks can be found on the City of Calgary website.


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