Nova Scotia

Backyard skating rinks endangered by warmer winters

The flip-flop in winter temperatures is making it very difficult to maintain backyard ice rinks.

Frustrating year for those who enjoy skating outdoors as temperatures see-saw

The ice is melting on this backyard rink in the Battery Point neighbourhood of Stratford, P.E.I. (Submitted by Sherry MacInnis)

The Canadian tradition of backyard ice rinks is in danger as the climate warms.

This is according to Rink Watch, which is run out of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. It tracks the number of skating days on backyard rinks across the country as a way to study at how the climate is changing. 

"It's been an awful winter for backyard rinks right across the country," Rink Watch's Robert McLeman told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon.

"It's just been up and down, up and down, freeze, thaw all winter long. It's been a very frustrating year for people who are into outdoor skating." 

Many have given into that frustration and stopped trying to maintain their rinks, simply letting them melt away. 

"It's an awful lot of work, it's a real labour of love and you have to have a lot of cold days in a row to make a good skating surface," said McLeman.    

Ryan Myers, also in P.E.I., says his backyard rink keeps his sons outside and off the iPad during the winter. (Submitted by Ambre Myers)

This winter has been exceptionally warm due to the double impact of El Nino and climate change, said McLeman. This season is also a preview of what winter will be like in 75 or 85 years from now, he said. 

"It's one of those things where we'll still get winters, we just won't get the types of winters that are conducive to having a lot of fun," he said. "Snowmobiling, skating, cross-country skiing, so we're getting winter without the good bits of it."   

However, not everyone is getting out of rink-building due to warm weather, said McLeman, noting most rinks are usually linked to children in a household. 

If children grow out of skating on the backyard rink it's unlikely their parents continue to build one.