Reason to Love Toronto: Because our blades are glorious

Reason to Love Toronto: Because our blades are glorious

(Image: Derek Shapton) 

Come winter, al fresco activities tend to go into the deep freeze. Heads down, we scurry along grey streets, grimacing as frigid puddles breach the fragile barriers of supposedly waterproof boots. It can be hard to stay positive, let alone active, which is why we love the Colonel Sam Smith Ice Trail. It’s a 250-metre, figure-eight-shaped skating path in south Etobicoke, and it’s putting real smiles on pale February faces.

Since the trail opened just before Christmas, Torontonians of all stripes and sizes have come out to try their skating legs. Inspired by an outdoor skate trail in Brampton’s Gage Park, it’s the latest perk in a decade-long plan to fancify the park. It took two years to build and cost the city $2 million; developers constructing nearby condos were tapped for a quarter of the funds. Part of the money went toward a fabulous renovation of a 1929 red-brick building that originally pumped electricity to the Mimico Lunatic Asylum. Now a dignified skate house topped with a smokestack, it holds a change room, the rink’s refrigeration equipment and the requisite Zamboni, all under soaring cathedral ceilings.

Winding around pine trees and rocks, the trail slips almost seamlessly into the natural environment, with snow-covered hiking paths branching off the ice. First, a swoosh on the rink; then, a walk through crunchy snowdrifts; next, the shushing of cross-country skis. Being outside in sub-zero air is suddenly something to look forward to.