Thursday, 4 February 2016

Do You Speak Skate?

I love skating. Growing up, I played ringette (ahem, provincial champ in 1991.) Though, for some reason, as an adult, I never went out and skated much. Outdoor hockey rinks are great, but that loop can get pretty small pretty fast. Thats why I love the Red River Mutual Trail. Currently 3km long, the trail extends all the way to Churchill Drive, winding its way through the city while offering a new perspective. I love experiencing Winnipeg gliding along the ice connecting one riverbank to the other. I dont expect to see the Banana Boat ice cream shop directly across from my old running path in Norwood Flats. Everything just feels so much closer and connected. Every time I skate, I always see something new.

Though its in the middle of the city, the trail feels remote and exotic and the prairie horizon seems endless. Peppered with warming huts, there are many opportunities to sit, visit, adjust your skates or even have a snack! Designed by people around the world, the warming huts are fantastic interactive installations of art and architecture. They are all so very different, you really have to see them to believe them! Aside from a selfie at a Jets game, Im pretty sure this warming hut is probably the most photographed winter thingin Winnipeg. There are 14 warming huts out on the ice for you to experience!

When the trail recently opened, I was eager to gather old friends and new friends together for a skate date! Our new friends are very new, as in new to Canada a few weeks ago new. Naima (8) and Mustafa (10) are part of a family of 10 who recently arrived from Saudi Arabia. I wanted to invite them out and show them how we play and embrace winter in Winnipeg. And, I just love bringing people together through activity. Its one of my favourite things to do. The activity becomes the common ground. You dont have to speak the same language- smiles and gestures go a long way.

Rounding out our skate crew:
University of Calgary speedskater: Ruth
Lockports finest skating instructor 2003-2009: Haley
4-year-old: Lucie
Skateboarder: Bob

So, after getting our skates tied up (rentals available in the Iceland Skate Rentals at The Forks Market, $5 adults, $3 children and seniors) we buddied up and headed down past the ice circle (a great spot to find your ice legs too!) down to the river. Skate rentals are popular on weekends, so get there early! I also highly recommend a good pair of wool socks to keep those tootsies warm! After all, not much is fun when youre cold.

When we arrived at the river, we were all eager to hit the ice! My skating instructions for newbies is basic: bend your knees! (the universal sports adjustment.)

Naima and Lucie were able to secure themselves with these fabulous red chairs (a warming hut called Recycling Words). A must try for all new skaters, little ones, or when you just feel like taking a break! Chairs are free and available on the ice on a first come, first served basis.

Taking Lucie for some serious spins.

Ruth and Haley were excellent elbows to lean on for Naima.

Meanwhile, Bob and Mustafa were mostly holding each other up. But once Mustafa got a hold of a chair, watch him go!

Naima leading the group through the snow maze!

Bob and Ruth surveying the scene.

Bob and Mustafa taking a well-deserved break.

We were so busy on the trail we didnt even make it up to higher ground! Arctic Glacier Winter Park has snowboarding, tobogganing and even more skate trails. I just love how accessible all the activities are for everyone. No cost, just show up. The best way to play.

Being outside, moving with people is relaxing and is one of my favourite ways to connect. As Naima and Mustafa are just learning English, getting outside and playing are one of the ways we can come together in our community. We dont need to speak the same language to skate together!

I love seeing all of Winnipeg come out. All families, ages and abilities coming together in our big old backyard at The Forks. Fresh air, making new friends, holding each other up and trying new things. It just feels good. Its the best place to be.

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