Favourite Winnipeg winter activity
1. Outdoor ice skating
2. Long walks on the River Trail
3. Staying inside
There is a strange custom here in Canada and other frigid countries, where one attaches sharp blades to shoes in order to slide across frozen water, not only indoors but outdoors, as well. Indeed, when the Assiniboine and Red Rivers become solid enough, people use them to travel from one side of the city to another.
While this method is exhilarating for some and, depending on traffic, faster than driving through downtown at rush hour, the risk of falling is much higher than walking or driving, depending on your ability. St. Vital’s community centre even offers accessible devices and supports for people who require mobility aids for travel on land to enjoy the activity.
I was first exposed to skating two years after I became Canadian, on a field trip with my school to an indoor rink in Kitchener, Ont. Despite having lived in the country for as long as I could remember, I had not been exposed to many Canadian customs, as my family was part of an intentional community of Christians from all over the world, quite separate from the city around us. Suffice to say, I saw more creation of religious skits than hockey games, and got my lessons in Canadian culture from Red Green.
During this forced exploration of skating, I fell often and could only stop by hurling myself into the boards. I later took figure-skating lessons with other newcomer children, and I gained some basic skating skills. However, I still cannot perform a triple axel.
While not my preferred method of travel, skating is beautiful to watch, an ingenious way to avoid traffic and a crucial part of my newcomer experience. The risk of embarrassment and failure was but one part of my process of constructing a Canadian identity among those who have managed to walk on water.
Published in Volume 75, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 2, 2020)