It’s finally time to lace up those skates

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Claire Maloney and Kenzie Skuta were delighted to find an empty rink on Wednesday morning.

With no hockey players in sight, the two friends, both eight, had the whole boarded Flagstone surface to themselves. Typically a game of tag or follow the leader would be in order, but the girls couldn’t resist the appeal of a fresh dusting of snow.

They took turns shovelling the ice to create a giant fluffy pile in the middle of the rink – reminiscent of raking autumn leaves.

Maloney has been getting the most out of the skating season so far. She’s hit the ice with her family every second day since the rinks opened.

All outdoor rinks, with the exception of Lacombe Lake Park, were opened as of Monday.

Getting the rinks ready this year was no easy task, said Louise Stewart, manager of operations for parks and open spaces at the City of St. Albert.

“We had some fun with the warm weather at the beginning of December and lack of snow,” she said.

Typically city staff would begin building a base for the rinks in mid- to late-November, but this year’s unusually warm weather set them back, melting portions of the ice during the day.

“We did get that nice week of cold, but it did require us pulling other people off other shifts to flood. Which is fine because we weren’t getting snow, so the snow clearing guys were actually helping build ice,” said Stewart.

Crews are still working on getting the Lacombe Lake surface up to snuff. Currently it is rough and dangerous, as the ice was too thin to support the heavier equipment needed to smooth the surface.

Stewart said the goal is to open the lake on Tuesday. This week’s overnight lows should help the flooding process. Residents are asked to stay off the rink until further notice.

The city is reminding the public to stay off any rivers, lakes and ponds, as these surfaces are not maintained by city staff and are dangerous to walk or skate on, especially during warmer temperatures.

Residents are also asked to respect Thin Ice signs placed around these unsafe ice surfaces and check the City of St. Albert website for any closures.

St. Albertans couldn’t ask for better weather to strap on a pair of skates than this weekend.

Environment Canada is predicting warm and mostly sunny weather for Boxing Day and beyond, with temperatures hovering around -7 C over the weekend into Monday and a high of -2 and sunny skies on Tuesday.

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Michelle Ferguson