Surge in demand for winter sports leads to equipment shortages
People are turning to winter activities to cope with pandemic restrictions
When the Emera Oval in Halifax reopened on Monday, Matt Monroe jumped at the opportunity to get involved in some "normal" winter activity with his daughter and her two friends.
"There's been a couple of weeks of a lot of boredom," he told CBC's Information Morning. "Friends haven't been able to visit with friends and we thought this was a good social distancing way to do it."
Monroe is like many people who are looking for ways to stay active and break the monotony that sometimes results from pandemic restrictions and limited physical interactions.
Facilities like the Emera Oval are providing an outlet, but because of public health gathering restrictions they are limited in how many people they can serve at a time.
The facility is currently limited to 90 people on the ice at any given time, a fraction of its capacity, according to Maggie-Jane Spray, the senior communications advisor for the Halifax Regional Municipality.
A phone and online reservation system has been put in place allowing people in groups of no more than 10 from a single household to register for skate time up to two days in advance.
The volume of people logging in and calling for bookings has already strained the system, leading to delays. Spray asked people to be patient and said there are plans for improvements.
"Now that we know the demand is very high, we're just going to start kind of looking to increase that number slowly," she said. "And that may continue as the season progresses, of course, in consultation with public health and their directives there as well."
The urge to partake in outdoor winter activities has also been reflected in an increased demand for sporting supplies, with some stores already sold out of many items.
Mark Hazen of Ocean Trail Source for Adventure in Moncton, N.B., told CBC's Maritime Noon that in November 2019 his store sold $1,000 worth of cross-country skis compared to $30,000 this year.
Andre Roy-Girard of the Trail Shop in Halifax said a number of factors are responsible for the astronomical spike in demand, including snowbirds being unable to travel and pandemic constraints on factory capacity.
"The demand has been so high and everybody wants to get out and not just stay inside," he said, "and since many people are not traveling, they want to get out and enjoy some weather."
Hazen said the big demand for items like cross-country skis and snowshoes early in the season means that anyone looking to purchase them now is likely to be disappointed.
"It's getting to the point now where I'm telling people, 'Listen, I'm sorry, I'm sold out,' which is something I've never done in 12 years being here," he said.
The news isn't all bad. Hazen said people who already own skis can still buy bindings if they don't mind a bit of a wait — and skates are still available.
That will be good news for people at the Emera Oval.
"We are still offering skate and helmet rentals, but they are fairly limited," Spray said. "So we're asking skaters to bring their own equipment where possible."
With files from Brooklyn Currie and Maritime Noon