It's go time for skating and skate rentals at Halifax's beloved Oval

All you need to know to get your skate on this winter.

click to enlarge The prettiest thing Halifax ever did see. - CAORA MCKENNA
Caora McKenna
The prettiest thing Halifax ever did see.
Halifax's most-reliable sheet of ice opens this week—to the delight of thousands of Haligonians who will venture onto its pristine crisp surface to skate counter-clockwise, alternating with and against the wind, in the Halifax Common this winter.

The oval's skate rental program was initially going to be cancelled this year but in a turn of good news to kick off the new year, it's not! Free skate rentals are on!

HRM spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray says the change comes after new info from pubic health saying that with proper cleaning protocols, rentals of both helmets—mandatory for anyone under 12—and skates would be possible. A big win for the thousands of new-to-skating folks living in the city who get to give the ice a try before shelling out money for their own pair of skates.

But the Oval's almost-always open promise, which allowed for wintertime spontaneity in a way few other HRM attractions could, is being broken this year. Skaters and sliders will need to register for their spot in advance either over the phone (calling 902-490-6666 between 8:30am and 4:30pm) or online via Halifax Recreation's online portal. This may mean making an account if you don't already have one, or resetting your long-forgotten password from those swimming lessons years ago.

Registration for a skate time opens two days in advance at 8:30am, HRM has limited the number of skaters per time slot to 90 120, and shortened skate times to allow for more people to get out on the ice. Starting January 25, HRM says it will change the registration to have rolling open times, meaning the skate time for noon on Wednesday will open to the public at noon on Monday, instead of having all slots open up at 8:30am.


(At high times last year, the Oval could have 1,000 to 1,500 people skating away on any given gorgeous winter Saturday. The new limits mean the Oval will max out at 450 public skaters a day.)

To register online visit HRM's recreation portal here.
You'll see the program search bar at the top like this:
From there click the main category drop-down menu and select _Emera Oval Public Skate.

From there you can book your time for a group of up to 10 people. The online portal also means you can cancel your time if you're no longer able to make it. Which would be a worthy kindness in this high-demand low-supply winter.

Spray says that since HRM is already seeing huge demand for skating—all available spots are already booked up—there's a chance that limit could be increased, but like anything in the time of coronavirus, it could also be decreased or changed at any moment.

Skate-aids—those big red things that are used to help beginners skate—aren't being provided this year, but skaters are welcome to bring their own to help them scoot around the rink. And Spray adds that HRM is encouraging folks who have their own gear to bring it, too.

Skating lessons with HRM aren't being offered at The Oval this year, but HRM is offering skating lessons for kids and adults at arenas around the municipality. Registration for that opens at 10am on Thursday, January 7th.


And for anyone who's new to skating and wants to try it out, this editor recommends making sure your skates are tied up tight (ask a friend to help you, it'll make a big difference).
This is the skating schedule for the oval, it'll be updated with any notice of cancellations due to weather. And HRM's Emera Oval info page has the details on how to get there using Halifax Transit—and a reminder that the Google Transit app that Halifax Transit works with is available in 12 different languages.



Editor's note: This story was updated January 5 to reflect that HRM updated the number of spots from 90 to 120, and add that registration opens at 8:30am.
This story was updated January 20 to reflect that HRM is changing the registration on January 25 from 8:30am daily to a rolling open time.

About The Author

Caora McKenna

Caora is the City Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from city hall to police and housing issues. She’s been with The Coast since 2017, when she began as the publication’s Copy Editor.

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