In my 23 years of living, I have skated approximately 5 times. Three out of those five times were during my younger years as a 5-year old. Carefree as ever at that age, I would cautiously slip and slide across the ice rink at the Olympic Oval. I remember most vividly, receiving a snickers bar to share amongst myself and my brother and sister, at the end of our lessons. In fact, I think my favourite part of skating was the Snickers bar at the end.
This year, after seeing an abundance of skating photos at the Olympic Plaza on Stephen Ave, I decided enough was enough. I was going to go Skating at Olympic Plaza. See the other two times I went skating, it consisted of me holding onto someone much stronger and more stable than I. In fact, I would just allow myself to be dragged across the rink – my stability level that of a newborn baby giraffe.
However, since I am a strong and independent woman I figured I didn’t need to hold onto someone. I can very well skate by myself. So naturally, I dragged my sister along for the ride. After staring at the rink for 30 minutes, snapping shameless selfies, grabbing a bite to eat at Earls and buying hot chocolate for “sustenance” – we decided it was time to skate.
Olympic Plaza is a beautiful destination place for downtown Calgary workers during lunch hour. The plaza was built in 1988 for the Olympic Winter Games and has the only refrigerated outdoor ice surface in the city
During the winter season, this outdoor park is turned into a skating rink for all Calgarians to enjoy. Bring your own skates (or rent them), and take the time to enjoy this festive outdoor setting. Just be sure to pack some hot chocolate!
For first-timers – like myself, I recommend renting one of the skate aids. Set aside your ego because these things are a godsend. We were very lucky that a group of Latin American tourists let us borrow their skate aid for a bit (gracias!!) because it is extremely helpful. The aid costs $8 to rent and it is the best $8 you will spend.
Skating at Olympic Plaza is fun but the rink gets filled up fast. However, this is the perfect family activity or even a great date idea. Although the rink itself is not that huge, it can still fit a lot of people.
With that being said I did have a few problems here. First I did find that it gets very crowded, very quickly – especially when the weather is good. Even during the evening (around 5:30 onwards), it was crowded. This meant that there was no room for error -or newbies like me to make mistakes. Second, because skating is open to everyone, you get a wide range of skate levels, which means that you had people whizzing by you and that was a bit daunting for a first timer! I also found that parents would let their younger kids skate without supervision which meant that in addition to trying to get used to gliding, you had to watch out for younger kids in front of you or pushing past you. In fact, I had one kid run into me because he was skating backward.
Finally, there was a lot of time wasted when the Zamboni went to clean the ice. The process lasted 20-30 minutes, cutting into your rental time. It was very cold sitting there unmoving with your skates on waiting for the ice to be cleaned. While I understand the importance of this process, the fact that it is done once every hour is a bit inconvenient!
Overall, I still enjoyed my time ice skating. The weather was absolutely fantastic and made for a more enjoyable time on the ice. Since we went on a Saturday, there was a DJ who played festive music, and the lights matched the Christmas theme. People were out and about in the city (which I find super important), and you could tell everyone was having fun.
Despite the problems I mentioned earlier, I still think skating at Olympic Plaza is a great winter time activity.