Skiing in a winter wonderland: Winnipeg 'library' allows outdoor enthusiasts to rent equipment

Winnipeggers can check books and movies out from the library — now they can check winter sports gear out from a new type of library, with a fresh blanket of snow across the city to top it off.

Many Winnipeg-area cross country trails to open this weekend, rinks given green light to flood

Located at the Bicycle Garden on Sherbrook Street, the Icicle Garden allows customers to rent skis and snow shoes. Eventually kick sleds will also be available for rent. (Jonathan Ventura/CBC)

Winnipeggers can check books and movies out from the library — now they can check winter sports gear out from a new type of library, with a fresh blanket of snow across the city to top it off.

This winter, the Bicycle Garden storefront on Sherbrook Street is playing host to the Icicle Garden, a kind of library where people can rent skis, snow shoes and eventually kick sleds.

"This project is an initiative to get more people outside enjoying the winter," says Leigh Anne Parry of the Plain Bicycle Project, which oversees the project along with the Winnipeg Trails Association.

So far it's working, she says.

"This week has been super busy. As soon as the snow fell, everybody who has been waiting to get outside has been calling us and renting."

Elizabeth Shearer tries on cross country ski boots ahead of her weekend getaway. It was her first time visiting the Icicle Garden to rent skis on Wednesday. (Darin Morash/CBC)

The snowsports library operates on a sliding price scale and rents out the used equipment with an online booking system.

Elizabeth Shearer visited the library for the first time on Wednesday. She says she's excited to escape to Lake Winnipeg over the holidays with her partner and dog, since she won't be able to spend Christmas with her family.

Once there, they plan to do some cross-country skiing with the rentals.

"We really like that this was offered because skis would just sit in our basement for 360 days of the year," she said.

For about $15, people can rent skis or snowshoes for a day. It's $30 for the weekend.

Those who aren't as enthusiastic about winter sports as they once were can donate their old skis and snow shoes — even just part-time — to the Icicle Garden, Parry says.

"It's really great that there's an affordable option for folks to access the outdoors," Shearer said.

For her, going outside is important for her mental health.

"It's really nice to get out in nature, clear your mind and just get active. With COVID, it's harder and harder to be able to just relax and take your mind off the wildness right now," she said.

The Cross Country Ski Association of Manitoba says regional ski trails are shaping up, and some — including Birds Hill Park — will be ready by the weekend.

Skating rinks opening

People are also eager to lace up their skates as community rinks have been given the green light to flood.

Alex Williamson has been looking for a rink for the last three days.

"Quarantine is hard for most people, including myself ... I've been hoping and dreaming that these ice [rinks] come out sooner than later," he said.

Two children test the ice on the rink at the Broadway Neighbourhood Association. (Darin Morash/CBC)

City Councillor Sherri Rollins believes getting outdoors is vital.

"I really want kids to get out there and still be physically fit, and still do the outdoor time that they do. In a safe way, in a physically distant way, because we're still battling COVID," she said.

For those looking to enjoy public rinks, they will be limited by the provincial health restrictions. Skaters will have to stay two metres apart and limit group sizes to no more than five.

With files from Jonathan Ventura