In Montreal, there are two ways to deal with winter: hide from it or embrace it. Considering there is snow on the ground for four to five months of the year, I decided soon after my arrival to learn how to enjoy the season. Near the end of my first winter here, I bought an inexpensive pair of recreational skates to enjoy the abundance of outdoor skating.
Every neighbourhood has at least one skating rink within easy walking distance. Some are specifically set up for playing hockey while others are free-skate rinks or decorative paths. Enjoying the winter scenery while I skate is important to me, so all of my favourite skating places are the decorative paths in the larger parks.
My reviews below are only a few of the many places to skate in Montreal. For an interactive map of all the rinks and their current condition, check out patinermontreal.ca.
Full Service Skating
If you are new to outdoor skating and not sure you want to invest in a pair of skates, I recommend trying out one of the full-service skating rinks. You can rent skates at all of these locations, usually around $6-$8. If you already own skates, they also have sharpening services.
Bonsecours Basin (Bassin Bonsecours)
Beaver Lake (Lac des castors)
Parc Jean Drapeau during Fête des Neiges
|The skating path during Fête des Neiges 2013|
Fête des Neiges is the annual winter festival usually held at Parc Jean Drapeau on the weekends from mid-January through early February. For the past two years, you can skate for free along a scenic path near the St. Lawrence river. Because it is during the festival you can also take in one of the other winter activities or enjoy hot chocolate and Beaver Tails while you’re there.
Favorite Neighbourhood Skating
You will need to bring your own skates to these fantastic free neighbourhood spots.
Parc St. Viateur
This scenic path has been a favourite in Outremont for generations. The well-groomed, natural ice path circles the park, taking you under a small bridge and by the charming heated chalet, where you can safely keep your boots warm. Since it gets busy on the weekend, it is best to go early and then warm up with hot chocolate at one of the nearby cafés.
If you are inspired to do a winter skating road trip, these two are worth the drive!
Domain de la foret perdue (Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel)
Rideau Canal (Ottawa)
Famous for being the world’s largest outdoor skating rink, the Rideau Canal is worth the drive to Ottawa. Because it is natural ice, its condition is very weather dependent, so the best time to go is usually during Winterlude in February. For the full experience, start at Dow’s Lake and skate toward downtown, which is 7.8km one-way. If you get tired, you can rest and refuel at one of the many rest and snack stations every 1-2km along the way. The canal can get very crowded during Winterlude, especially downtown, so its best to start early.