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Warm winter taking a toll on outdoor rinks as City battles to keep surfaces usable

Several major rinks in operation, including Wakamow Oval, but exceptionally warm conditions over coming days could cause melting issues
The ice was in good shape at Moose Park earlier in the week, but warm temperatures will likely play havoc with those conditions in the coming days.

As anyone who grew up with Canadian winters can tell you, outdoor skating rinks are often the centrepiece of fun times once the weather gets colder.

Just heading out to the shack, putting on the blades and getting a bit of exercise on a brisk winter afternoon is pretty much a right of passage, and one that’s pretty much taken for granted this time of year.

But thanks to El Nino and the sudden brutal cold snap, the City of Moose Jaw has only recently been able to get to flooding rinks, with a focus on major ones at that. As a result, things are quite a bit behind compared to past years and some skating surfaces might not see flooding at all this season.

Such is the case when the weather refuses to cooperate, but Moose Jaw Parks and Recreation continue to do their best to get things done.

“Right now we’re about six weeks later than normal, and due to that we’re going to have a reduced program this year,” said recreation services manager Scott Osmachenko. “We had to make a decision where we aren’t going to flood all the rinks and it’s definitely been a challenge this year for weather. We’ve just been playing it by ear when things get cooler.”

In a normal winter, flooding and preparing rinks starts in the first week of December, with most surfaces and the Wakamow Oval up and running by the Christmas season. That’s followed by all the warm-up shacks and other aspects being fully opened the first week of January.

This season, it was only this week that the Oval was able to open, and over the last week and a bit that outdoor rinks were flooded and usable.

Part of the issue was that even when it did get cold enough to flood, it was so cold that it was dangerous for both workers and equipment. Once conditions improved, workers were able to put in time on weekends and evenings to get things up and running, with seven rinks now operating.

That includes East End (9th and Ominica East), Sunningdale (Daffodil Drive), Moose Square (600 Block Stadacona West), West End (10th and Athabasca West), Smith Park (1200 Block Hastings), Regal Heights (1400 Block 13th Ave NE) and Wood Lily (466 Wood Lily Drive).

A trio of community rinks at Kinsmen West Park, Veteran Peace Park and Westheath have also been flooded and are running.

Unfortunately, a quick look at the forecast shows that the surfaces might not be around for long.

Temperatures are expected to hit double digits over the weekend -- even touching 14 C on Sunday and Tuesday -- and remain above zero during the day until the second week of February.

As one might expect, that’s rather bad news for outdoor ice surfaces.

“It’ll have an impact,” Osmachenko said. “Some rinks have full southern exposure, like Wood Lilly, so the corners start to disappear, water will be on the surface and it’ll get soft, then the surface won’t be smooth when it refreezes. And if it gets to plus-10 like the forecast is saying, it’ll definitely have an effect. So we’ll have to wait and see.”

The City will do its best to keep things up and running, though, with slightly cooler temperatures obviously of benefit. Keep an eye on the City of Moose Jaw Facebook page and the Parks and Recreation section of for updates.

And if you have a major hankering to go skating, check out the public skate times at the local indoor rinks, with multiple times available throughout the week.

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