Edmontonians are no strangers to braving the cold — some can be spotted still wearing shorts and flip flops after the temperatures drop, others choose bikes to commute even when it’s snowing. One local architect, Matt Gibbs, took this further several years ago, proposing a “skate to work” trail as a fun way for the residents to commute. While we may not be swapping wheels for skates anytime soon, the city was taken by the idea, and adopted a part of it to create Edmonton’s most enchanting skating trail instead — Victoria Park IceWay.
Each year, one of the paths transforms into a winter wonderland that rivals even the most stunning displays of festival lights. Whether you’re looking for a new spot at which to skate or a date-night idea, the trail offers an experience like no other.
To create the IceWay, city officials use 100 truck-loads to dump about 700,000 litres of water onto the trail over the course of two weeks, and let the nature do the rest. The city’s spokesperson, Bryan Turner, says the officials try to have the trail ready by December, just in time for the holidays. Turner tries to make it out there as much as he can — and encourages others to do the same. “It’s really peaceful and romantic… I wish there was something like this when I was a kid,” says Turner. “It’s a good place to take your family or friends.”
While the one-loop trail is 700 metres long, the rainbow path only makes up a portion of it — about 25 metres. The rest is illuminated with white lights. Under the luminescent glow of multicoloured lights, the path looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. Like with any magic, creating it took some experimentation — and, in this case, lots and lots of lamps. Turner says setting these up is very challenging.
When the city first introduced the skating trail as a part of the WinterCity Strategy in 2015, stadium lights were set up to illuminate it. But the fumes from the generator, loud noise and blinding light made it less than enjoyable for the visitors. Not surprisingly, after the city switched to decorative lanterns in 2017, the visitors were more than happy with the change. “We like to make it kind of fancy in that area,” says Turner. “A lot of people received it really well, so we continued to do it.”
Yet, much to visitors’ dismay, the change didn’t last. Last year, the city had to replace the rainbow glow with white lights, in order to repair the lanterns. Thankfully, the lanterns have been repaired and made their return this year. “People really missed having those… I was surprised at how often people would ask what happened to them,” says Turner. “We really took that into account.”
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This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Avenue Edmonton.