Skating in Montreal

I grew up in rural Alberta. Which is to say, I grew up skating.

skating in montreal

In my experience, even if you weren't enrolled in extracurricular skating programs like hockey or figure skating, every kid learned to skate in elementary school in gym class. There wasn't a reliable outdoor rink at my school but we walked the 10 minutes or so to the arena, near the high school and civic centre, and we had our skating classes there.

Damien learned to skate as a child also, growing up likewise in rural Alberta, close to the Rocky Mountains. He was in hockey for a bit and his family lived in the country and they skated on a pond. He didn't like hockey, skating was ok, but snowboarding was his real love and winter sport passion.

skating in montreal

As we grew up and moved away from "home", making new homes in first New Jersey and then Maine, we grew out of skating. By the time our children were at the learn-to-skate age, skating did not factor into our lives. There were one or two winters in Maine where I took the kids skating at the indoor arena at the liberal arts college where Damien worked. Not too cold, good ice and good company; we'd go during Damien's lunch break and he'd meet us at the rink.

skating in montreal

When we moved to the Gaspe Peninsula five years ago, we introduced our family to skiing and it's been our winter sport ever since.

Last year was my first winter living in Montreal and I learned that skating abounds here, in a way I haven't experienced anywhere else I've lived. The city and neighborhoods ensure that skating is an accessible winter sport to city residents. Outdoor rinks pop up all over the city. Two exist within a 10 minute walk from our apartment. One is a full size hockey rink with boards and nets. The other is a "loop" of ice in a nearby park. This one includes a trailer with skates you can borrow (for free) and a blue porty-potty in case you just gotta go. (I'll walk home thanks.)

skating in montreal

We're not hockey players and we're still newbies on our skates so we stick to the park where parents and grandparents teach the toddlers to skate with the PVC pipe frames that you can also borrow from the trailer.

skating in montreal

As a child I learned to skate by pushing around a folding chair. People here do that too, arriving at the park with a folding chair under their arms, a snow-suited preschooler in tow.

I never did get skates last year, but this year I vowed to make it happen. It was one of those non-negotiables on my winter to-do list. I don't know how long I'll live in Montreal, so I want to make the most of what the city has to offer.

skating in montreal

Because we don't have a lot of experience with skating and I'm not sure Brienne and Laurent's feet are done growing, and because I wanted to just go somewhere and get the right skates, for the right price, I opted to rent skates this year from Poubelle de ski on Boulevard Saint Laurent; the place where thousands of Montrealers outfit their families for winter sports by renting equipment, at reasonable prices, for the season.

If the kids, one of those kids is nearly an adult now (gulp), decide they want to continue skating we'll look at buying skates next year but this was a good way to re-introduce everyone back to the sport.

skating in montreal

The kids have gone skating in the afternoons, as the weather permits. And for Brienne's belated birthday party I brought a gaggle of girls here also.

Lucky for me, Celine and I can share the same size (if I wear an extra thick sock) so I've been borrowing her skates. It's been about 10 years since I've been on skates but I have a childhood bank of muscle memory and experience to drawn on, it's coming back to me slowly. And I wear my ski helmet, the only adult at the park to do so, in case I lose my footing.

The weather in the city has not been conducive to skating for the last week or so. Warming temperatures, then freezing rain and slushy snow, but it looks like some cold days are coming, for which I am grateful. (After publishing this post I came across this video of someone skating on the street this past week in Montreal. I guess conditions were ok, on that one day at least, for skating after all. Just not for driving or walking!)

skating in montreal

All over the country people are skating this time of year. They are skating in arenas, and on ponds, they are skating on outdoor rinks flooded and maintained by civic-minded volunteers and municipal employees.

skating in montreal

I live in a vast northern land that is often divided by politics, in a country where it is hard to find a cohesive center across great geographical and cultural distance. The gift of my experience growing up in the European immigrant settled, English-speaking rural west, and living now as I do in francophone Quebec, in the heart of Canada's most cosmopolitan city, is how intimately I understand these tensions. I often ask myself, "what ties it all together besides Tim Hortons?"

Maybe it's skating.

Filed Under

Resource Library

« Sunrise Botanics
Missive from the edge »
  • Pam F.

    Pam F. on Jan. 28, 2017, 5:39 p.m.

    I love this!  We've been embracing ice skating at out local park rink as much as possible this year.  But I will now be daydreaming of skating at your park (I want a path!) and warming up with coffee and pastries from a nearby bakery...


  • Andrea

    Andrea on Jan. 28, 2017, 5:58 p.m.

    I always wanted to ice skate when I was young!  (Now I know I do this miserably and don't have this skill...balance).  Growing up we had no place to ice skate, but I would "pretend" to ice skate waiting at our bus stop at a pond in a junk yard!  ha.  Anyway, living most of my married life in Delaware (and i can see why NJ had no place to skate really) I'd take my kids to the University of Delaware ice rink.  Of course nothing is as fun as skating outdoors.  Your places look wonderful.  The loop around the park is neat.  Andrea


  • Moy

    Moy on Jan. 29, 2017, 10:03 a.m.

    What a pleasure to read!  This brought back so many fond memories of growing up ice skating in an indoor rink.  I can't believe I've changed to such an extent as a person that I've stopped ice skating and haven't even taught my kids, nor even thought about the pleasure of whipping around on the ice until I read your post!  When I'm done hibernating I'm going to get my figure skates out....They've come with me everywhere I've moved, but have only been used once in the last twenty odd years (more than I can say for my ski's that never even made it out if my parents loft....and I loved skiing too).  


  • Alaina

    Alaina on Feb. 2, 2017, 2 a.m.

    I grew up skating and so did my husband. Unfortunately at some point skating got painful for hurt my ankles a lot. So we never did teach our kids. They've never even skated once. I feel bad about it, seeing how it does have so much to do with our culture.  That looks like a really neat place to go skating! 


  • Karen

    Karen on Feb. 3, 2017, 8:56 p.m.

    I love this skating story, bring raised in rural Alberta "doing winter" on skates.  Neighbourhood families in our farming community having evening skating parties with bonfires circled with bales to sit on and warm up. Skating at school before classes started and at recess and noon- after school walking behind the barn to the slough where my brothers or Dad had cleared snow off the ice. Miss it now - and so happy you and your family have a chance to enjoy!!


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.