No snow, warm temperatures mean only rinks fit for skating in Montreal are refrigerated

Luca Mastermonaco visited downtown Montreal's refrigerated ice rink at the Esplanade Tranquille on Tuesday to get some ice time. (CBC - image credit)
Luca Mastermonaco visited downtown Montreal's refrigerated ice rink at the Esplanade Tranquille on Tuesday to get some ice time. (CBC - image credit)

It's the start of a new year and the kids are still on holiday break — a time many Montrealers associate with sledding, parking in snow banks and, of course, ice skating.

Only winter seems to be on holiday break too, with warm weather and rain melting away what little snow had accumulated while obliterating any hope of gliding across a glistening surface on a pair of freshly sharpened blades.

"Certainly this is not the greatest weather for being outside," said Jonathan Brun. "The lack of snow, the lack of ice, really limits the amount of winter activities."

If there's anybody that knows the conditions of outdoor rinks in Montreal, it's Brun. He founded a website,, that tracks the conditions of rinks across the Montreal area, using data provided by each municipality.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

The website shows a map of all the rinks and currently only a handful are open because they are refrigerated. The rest are closed due to a lack of ice.

Among those that are open is the Esplanade Tranquille which, located in the Quartier des Spectacles, opened last winter.

Luca Mastromonaco was there on Tuesday. The young resident of Laval, Que., just north of Montreal, loves to skate in the winter but finding ice isn't easy.

"There are no outdoor rinks in Laval where I am, so I had to drive all the way here, a 30-minute drive, just to skate," he said.

"It's fun. I like skating," he added, but he's annoyed about having to travel such a long way to get some ice time.

Mitchell Dickau, a PhD candidate studying climate change at Concordia University, is writing about outdoor ice rinks in his thesis because he wanted to focus on something people can relate to.

To save the rinks, he said, humans have to reduce CO2 emissions. Right now, humans are pumping out more than 36 billion tonnes annually, he said.

"So until we stabilize temperatures by bringing our CO2 emissions to 0, the ice skating season will continue to decline every year," he said.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

In November 2016, the city of Montreal launched a three-year plan to install outdoor, refrigerated ice rinks around the city as a way to keep residents skating no matter how mild the winter gets.

Officials even earmarked $7.3 million for the cause, but that plan needed to be reconfigured after it was realized rinks would cost millions more than originally thought.

For now, refrigerated outdoor ice is available at the Esplanade Tranquille and next to Beaver Lake on Mount Royal. There's also a small refrigerated rink in Cabot Square and three Bleu Blanc Bouge rinks in the city.

"The vast majority of outdoor rinks are currently closed due to poor weather, but refrigerated outdoor rinks are open, as are arenas, and we invite Montrealers to take advantage of these facilities," said Montreal spokesperson Kim Nantais.

To open an outdoor rink, an accumulation of 10 centimetres of snow on the ground is needed. It also needs to be –5 degrees for at least three days with no precipitation, she said.

Nantais said Montreal is "determined to ensure that the population can take full advantage of the winter season and its sports and physical activities." This is why, she added, the city invests in refrigerated rinks like the Esplanade Tranquille when possible.