Sunday, January 22, 2012

Skating, mild winter-style

Given the kind of winter we’ve been having here in Hamilton, it’s a wonder our trip to the outdoor skating rink at Pier 8 happened at all.

So far, the winter has gone something like this: thaw, thaw, thaw, FREEZE, quickly thaw….with a little bit of snow and rain mixed in for good measure. No complaints here re: the mild January, with the exception of our dog tracking mud all through the house every time that ‘freeze’ turns to ‘thaw’.

But this post isn’t really about how refreshing it is not to have -30 temperatures every day for a month, but rather celebrating one of the activities that comes along with winter, and getting to know Hamilton a bit better at the same time.

One evening in early January, we were invited to join a couple of friends for a fun-filled evening of skating down at the waterfront, followed by Williams Fresh Café for coffee, beer, whatever.

With not even a grain of hesitancy from the non-skater in our family (my husband), we decided with enthusiasm that we would give it a go! That’s not to say that I’m very good – I stopped taking skating lessons when I was eight and have been probably twice in the last ten years. Saying that, it’s a skill that quickly comes back after a few spins round the rink.

We were looking forward to this for many reasons. 1) while we’ve been to the waterfront area many times, we’d never tried out the ice rink, 2) if there was any time to try it out, a January night where the temperature was above freezing was probably it, and 3) skating is an awesome workout.

Another plus – you don’t need your own skates to be able to enjoy the waterfront rink. Rentals are available for $4.00 a pair – and of course, its free to skate.

We weren’t really sure what kind of crowd to expect at the skating rink at Pier 8 (ie: whether they are all superstar skaters or all under 20). Sure, there were a good number of skaters that might fall under either of those categories, but there were also families teaching their little kids to skate, and tons of people our age, either out skating with friends or with their significant other. All abilities were there as well – definitely not an intimidating rink for those who are a bit rusty, or are learning for the first time.

Time flies at the rink…before you know it, you’ve been ‘working out’ (technically) for hours, while laughing, having fun and listening to music.

We were also surprised that, while there was a decent crowd there, it wasn’t Nathan Phillips Square-crowded…those who have skated in Toronto know what I mean. (This is an ongoing theme I have noticed in Hamilton – everything that you normally have to battle crowds or wait in line for in the Big Smoke, you can do in Hamilton without having to experience any of that.)

Ironically, perhaps the only downside to our skating excursion was the temperature itself. While spending time outside is undoubtedly easier when the temperatures are hovering around zero, or a couple of degrees below, on this night, the mild air was clearly not good for the skating rink.

There were quite a few slushy, wet patches developing on the ice that night – good, perhaps, if you need to slow down. But for those that took a tumble (not any of us, fortunately!), yuck.

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