Culture  Montreal on ice

A guide to the city's best outdoor rinks

Canada is known around the world as the land of ice and snow – few things have as great an impact on Canada’s identity as winter. Part of overcoming Canadian winters is the distraction offered by a variety of pastimes, one of which – as seen on the back of $5 dollar bill – is outdoor ice skating.  In Montreal, when folks aren’t bundled up inside watching hockey, you can find them on the rink outdoors.

“Outdoor ice-skating kind of reminds me of a very traditional Canadian winter,” Alexander Arnon, a U3 Economics student, said while skating on Parc La Fontaine in a tuxedo. Unphased by the weather he remarked that, “Skating outdoors is rather pleasant!”

For those brave enough to face the elements, popular ice rinks include the frozen lake in Parc La Fontaine and Beaver Lake on  top of Mont-Royal both free of charge, and offering ice skate rentals for $8. Surrounded by trees and a tamed wilderness – both Parc La Fontaine and Mont-Royal offer Montreal’s urbanites an opportunity to enjoy a rustic skate in the comfort of their own backyard. Both are lit during opening hours, with Parc La Fontaine adding a classical soundtrack to enhance your skate.

For the cosmopolitans of the city there is also the option of skating in the Old Port at the Bonsecours Basin, with an admissions fee of $4 for students and skate rentals at $8.  Over half a kilometre of open ice, beautifully illuminated at night with great views of both the St. Lawrence and de la Commune, Bonsecours Basin is a great place for a romantic city skate.

McGill recently joined in on the winter fun by opening a rink in the lower field. With no admissions fee and a convenient location, McGill’s rink is a great way to get in a skate between classes if you’ve got your own blades. The availability of hot chocolate at the nearby Snax is an added perk.

But while Montreal has a plethora of outdoor skating rinks available, away from the ice, residents and visitors often have a marked indifference to going outdoors in the winter.

U2 Sociology major Aylish Cotter remarked while looking out at group of students playing hockey on lower field, “The one problem with skating outdoors is that it is just so cold outside!”

Despite this freezing temperature induced scepticism, outdoor skating remains an important Canadian winter pastime enjoyed by many. For Outremont resident, Waseem Haja, “There is no beating a late night skate in Parc Saint-Viateur.” He explained in an interview with The Daily, “It’s pretty and quiet and on a clear night the moon hangs beautifully over the rooftops. It’s a great place to do some thinking. And if you get cold you can always warm up at the 5 Saisons beside the park.”

Parc Saint-Viateur is located on Bernard, west of Parc,  and charges no admissions fee, but does not offer rental skates. A picturesque and quiet park, this rink offers a suitable alternative for those wanting to enjoy a skate without the crowds of larger rinks.

Jay Watts III, a project manager at JK Communications and Montreal resident, noted an added bonus from outdoor skating: “It is pretty enjoyable, all in all, [although] I don’t go often enough, actually I didn’t go at all this winter. But, if you want to endear yourself to a girl, it’s an inexpensive and easy way.”

A winter cannot be truly Canadian without the essentials – cold weather, snow, warm clothes, and outdoor skating. Montreal offers more than enough possibilities for an outdoor skating excursion. And if the bitter weather and lack of companionship is stopping you from going, pick an old compatriot that will always keep you warm: Canadian Club.