I’ve made a decision to embrace my Canadian winters, to enjoy “where I live” instead of getting all mopey about not being somewhere else warm and sunny for January.
There is plenty to do here in the winter. There is skiing up at Mount Washington which is an hour and half drive away. Downhill doesn’t appeal to me, I’ve kind of done it once when I was 15, so I can’t really say that I wouldn’t feel different about it now if I tried it, but I recall when freshly moved up from California and my first time in snow there was a class field trip to Forbidden Plateau Mountain, a smaller ski hill next to Washington. They had a Bunny slope onto which I remained the entire day practicing my snow plow moves. I can’t recall if I had fun. Must not have made much of an impression on me. Maybe terror.
Anyway that was eons ago, maybe I’ll try downhill again but I’m thinking now more in the line of snowshoeing and Nordic skiing (cross-country). Just getting out there in the beautiful snow and some good cardio action. And it’s more economical than lift passes.
It’s all right there in my back yard, I want to take advantage of it and I thought a good place to start out was with an activity that was right in town, ice skating.
The first time I attempted ice skating since moving to Canada from California was in ’73 in the small rural community where we settled. The big fields next to my school was owned by one of my classmates’ family, ironically the Hortons, don’t know if they were in the lineage of THE Horton’s – Canadians will know who I’m talking about, but any way they had a big chunk of property and that particular winter we got a lot of snow and freezing temperatures and they had flooded one area of their field to create a big skating pond.
For a young gal from Huntington Beach it was one of the most magical memories I still carry. A country setting, a crystal clear night, a full moon, a bonfire and a big group of my new friends. Right out of LL Bean. My aunt had lent me her skates. Once out on the ice I actually did pretty good for a first time.
I’ve been a couple more times since but in the local hockey rinks. I didn’t relish the closed off grey block and steel structure of our ice rinks, stepping inside was a bit deflating, no ambience whatsoever. Which is why I didn’t care to do much more skating.
A far, far mournful cry from the enchantment of outdoor ice skating.
But that doesn’t matter now- we make our own fun right? And a hockey rink is all I’ve got to work with here.
So this winter after many, many years out I go once again. Gripping to the boards I test the ice, awkwardly I make my way along, so far so good. Then comes the abyss of open ice, because the back third of the ice was sectioned off for children’s hockey play and so couldn’t access that part of rails. I let go and tentatively pushed out, careful not to let those damn figure skate toe picks trip me, keeping my feet up with each little waddling stride, keeping my eyes up and forward, paying no attention to the 4-year-old darting circles around me, and I do make it to the other side.
That felt good. I eventually moved further from the boards and chanted to myself that it’s just like roller skating, remember how easy that was. I was prodding my legs in remembering the many years my sister and I took figure rolling skating when growing up in California. We learned dance and freestyle, the jumps we see the ice skaters do in competitions, except with five pounds laced to our feet.
Well, it’s almost like roller skating. I was able to complete my skating session without mishap.
The next time my sister Kathy and her husband Dave came with me. Dave was also a roller skater back in California in fact it’s where he and Kathy met when they were 17, and he hadn’t been on the ice but twice either since moving here 40 years ago. He steps out and saunters down the ice, hands in pockets, like he’s on a Sunday stroll through the park. Kathy, like me, cling first to the boards before finding our ice legs, but before too long we are out there too gliding with Dave. It was a fun day together and we set another skate time for the following week.
This next time Bob came along with Kathy and me, he hadn’t skated in 45 years, it was high time. He had done a lot of skating in his youth being from Parry Sound Ontario if you were a kid, you skated. He was also on the towns hockey team, coached by Bobby Orr’s dad. He stuck with it till he was about 14 years old, then he said he became too cool and quit.
Bob glided onto the ice rather well considering the lapse and his 63 years, he began to really enjoy himself as he got the feel of it again. He was gaining his confidence and dexterity with each lap.
One enjoyable hour in and as I was coming up on Bob he stopped and turned towards me, then swiftly his feet slipped from under him and in a split second he went down like a felled Douglas fir, a 6′ 2″ straight up body slam on his back. I and Kathy and several others gathered around him and asked if he was all right, how was his head, can he get up? He said he was good and we helped him up.
Then he said ok that’s it, I’m done, saying he was too old for this, which is what I expected him to say. But then he surprised me when he immediately changed his mind and said no, better to get back on the horse. Way to go Bob, I thought.
When it got closer to quitting time we discussed turning in our skates before the crowds but we were having a pretty good time and decided instead to do a few more laps before going in. A few minutes more around the rink I see Kathy is coming up along behind me, when suddenly she’s face down on the ice. I stop and go to her, panicked. She had fallen hard on her right shoulder. I and another woman helped her up as Bob skated over to us.
She couldn’t move her arm saying she heard a crack as she went down. We got off the ice, I helped her with her skates and her shoes and her coat. The staff filled out a form and gave her an ice pack and I took her to emergency for x-rays in her car; Bob followed in ours. 3 hours later the prognosis was severe tendon damage and a possible start of a hair-line fracture. 6 weeks to heal with physio starting in 2 weeks.
She tripped on the damn toe pick. So I’ve lost one skating partner for now, but snowshoeing is still on the board with Kathy when she’s healed, low impact. Bob was stiff the next day, neck strained a bit from keeping his head from cracking on the ice but he was in good spirits regardless and said he’ll go skating with me again, perhaps including a helmet with his skate rental.