Can I go skating, skiing or warm up with a bonfire? Manitoba restrictions allow for some winter fun

The province has provided more details on outdoor recreation in new public health orders—including permitting outdoor skating rinks—provided groups stay small and follow safety measures.

Province says you can take in the outdoors, but ideally only with your household

Many Manitobans have taken to building outdoor rinks in their own yards, as rinks and arenas are closed during the code red restrictions. The province says if it's built on your property, you can't have a neighbour on your ice. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The Manitoba government says outdoor winter activities are allowed under code red — with restrictions.

You can still skate, toboggan, ski, snowmobile, and ice fish without breaking the province's current COVID-19 restrictions, provided you keep your group small and follow COVID-19 safety measures.

"While the group size limit in outdoor public places is five (with exceptions for households larger than five) we urge Manitobans to only gather with their households," a spokesperson for the province said in an email to CBC.

If you do decide to take in the outdoors with someone not in your household, the province says you should make sure to physically distance, wear a mask, cover your cough, and stay home if you're sick.

Outdoor rinks allowed to open

The province provided more details on outdoor recreation in the new public health order released on Dec. 11 that will be in effect until Jan. 8.

Outdoor skating rinks are now allowed to open. Hockey and ringette players are allowed to practise skills and have "casual play" but must stay two metres apart from each other unless they are from the same household.

But the City of Winnipeg says the 43 municipal rinks and six toboggan slides won't open for a number of weeks because there hasn't been enough snow or cold.

WATCH | Manitoba restrictions allow for some winter fun:

Manitoba restrictions allow for some winter fun

2 years ago
Duration 2:18
You can still skate, toboggan, ski, snowmobile, and ice fish without breaking the province's current COVID-19 restrictions, provided you keep your group small and follow COVID-19 safety measures.

"We aren't able to open them immediately as we still need a little bit of help from Mother Nature," Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Assistant Chief Jay Shaw said at a press conference Friday.

The province says no organized practices, games, or outdoor sporting competitions are allowed.

Dressing rooms, warming shacks, and any other indoor facility used in outdoor recreation also can't be open. There's an exception for ski facilities, which can only allow people inside their chalets to use lockers, rent equipment, or use the washroom.

You can't have people at your backyard rink

With rinks and arenas closed, many people have taken to building their own outdoor rink, but the province warns that you can't have the neighbours over for a skate.

"As this includes both the interior and exterior of the property, only members of the household may use a rink on private property," the spokesperson wrote.

Shawna Crane, mom of three hockey-playing boys aged six, 10 and 13, said she understands the rules, but it's still hard to explain them to her kids.

"My boys are legitimately sick of seeing just each other," she laughed. "It will be hard for them to not say, 'Can so-and-so come over and play outside?'

"A good chunk of our friends are doing their own outdoor rinks as well because they know you can't have your friends over or go anywhere else to do it," Crane said.

If someone has built a rink on the river or another public place, skating is allowed as long as the group sizes do not exceed five, the province says.

But remember: the City of Winnipeg has warned the rivers are not yet safe for skating, and says never skate on retention ponds.

Meanwhile The Forks, which traditionally offers skating trails along the Assiniboine and Red River, said Friday they are reviewing the public health orders and will have more to say about skating next week.

Bonfires allowed in parks, ice shacks permitted too

You can't have guests over at your place for a bonfire, but the province said using a fire pit in public areas is allowed as long as group sizes do not exceed five.

Ice fishing is also allowed, but you can only have people from the same household in a fishing shack.

Asessippi Ski Area & Resort says it's been given the green light to open Dec. 19. You won't be able to hang out in the chalet, though — but you can ski up to your car to warm up. (Travel Manitoba)

Skiing allowed, but expect to warm up in your car

Asessippi Ski Area and Resort will open starting Dec. 19, according to president Daymon Guillas, but without warming facilties.

"If they need to warm up, they can ski up to their vehicles for a few minutes," he said. "The parking lot is at the bottom, so you can ski right to your car."

Unless you're with members of your household, each person will get to use their chairlift with their own separate chair, Guillas said.

A student skis last winter in Grand Beach Provincial Park. The province says cross-country skiing is allowed, but chalets and warming huts can't be open. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Cross-country skis in high demand

Cross-country skiing is also allowed, but you might have trouble renting skis, according to Karin McSherry, executive director of the Cross Country Ski Association of Manitoba.

The association runs Windsor Park Nordic Centre. They've decided they won't be renting skis during code red, she said.

"Getting equipment might be hard this year, because demand is very, very high and supplies are dwindling," she said.

Cross-country skiing is healthy and and easy option to still be safe, McSherry said.

"You can put on a pair of skis and go even where trails are not groomed, and have a great time," she said.

Sledding OK too

If you're hoping to take the kids sledding, that's allowed too, provided you don't gather in groups of more than five, the province says.

Even if there are other groups at the hill, that's OK, provided you keep to your group.


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter currently working for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.


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