Warm spell melts rinks


It’s getting warmer out there, and that’s made for some lousy skating and skiing conditions.

Daytime highs in the Edmonton region were well above zero Thursday and Friday, with similarly hot times expected for most of next week, reports Environment Canada.

These temperatures are far above the -5 C weather this region typically gets at this time of year, said Environment Canada meteorologist Dan Kulak.

“It’s a little bit of a surprise how warm it is,” Kulak said, as we’re supposed to be in for a cold, wet winter due to La Niña, “but it’s not quite a record.”

It’s also not unusual for the jet stream or storm track to push way north past Alberta, as it has now. Generally speaking, you get cold weather north of the jet stream, wet conditions in it, and warm south of it.

“The whole part of western North America is in the warm air because the storm track is moving so far northwards.”

Warm conditions prompted public works crews to close St. Albert’s outdoor rinks Thursday afternoon, said Louise Stewart, the city’s parks and open spaces operations manager.

“We have standing water on our ice surfaces,” she said, which means they’re no longer safe for skating.

A cold spell allowed the city to open its outdoor ice rinks in late November, or about two weeks earlier than they usually would, said roads and sidewalks operations manager Jay Mason. While last week was pretty warm, crews had managed to keep the rinks usable prior to Thursday with the help of cold nights.

Lacombe Lake has yet to open for skating this season, Stewart said – crews need 10 inches of ice before they can safely clear the snow off it, and there’s just three to five there now. The city would be lucky to have it open for skating by New Year’s Day, but should have it ready for the Fire and Ice Festival in February.

The warmth has also made for tough conditions for novice skiers, as the club doesn’t have the snow needed to work on its trails, said Laurie Hunt, special events co-ordinator with the St. Albert Nordic Ski Club. Strong winds had also blown a lot of debris onto the trails.

“I think ‘marginal’ is a good word,” she said of the city’s ski trails.

“We could certainly use more snow.”

City crews have been putting down more sand and gravel to deal with ice from the warm weather, and expect to save money on contractors due to not having to plow as much snow, Mason said.

Stewart and Mason said city rinks would likely remain closed all weekend, with weather conditions dictating when they’d reopen.


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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.