The freezing cold that marks the end of January is also prime time to bundle up and head outdoors for fun in the snow. Luckily, the perfect triad of winter activities is located in Mount Royal Park, a mere twenty minute walk from Roddick Gates. Besides being a haven for nature-lovers in an otherwise urban landscape, the park offers skating, cross-country skiing, and tubing. These activities start at the Beaver Lake Pavilion, at 2000 Chemin Remembrance, and provide great winter entertainment for the adventurous student.
Located right outside the pavilion, Beaver Lake is a natural and picturesque ice rink comprised of several adjacent skating surfaces. One of the surfaces includes a snowy island in the middle, complete with several ornament-laced trees. Multiple benches line the outer rim, facing outwards toward the ice, providing convenient seating for tired skaters. In the daytime, the rink is bustling with a vibrant energy. Transitioning into the evening, the rink is aglow with lights, emanating a cozier mood. Since the lake is outside, it is not as well maintained as other skating rinks, as evidenced by clumps of snow throughout the rink. The wind chill factor may also be difficult to bear on colder days. However, Beaver Lake creates an overall comfortable environment for novice and experienced skaters alike. The rink is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. There is no entry fee, and skate rentals are only $9 for two hours. Skate sharpening is also available for $7.
For an easy-to-learn activity combined with a total-body workout, cross-country skiing is available in Mount Royal Park, which includes 22 kilometres of groomed trails. Cross-country skiing allows friends to share conversations while exploring serene trails at a more laid-back pace. The park contains five trails for classic skiing and two for skate skiing, a newer method of cross-country skiing that involves lateral movements similar to those of ice skating. The variety of trails, ranging from relatively level stretches to sharper inclines, accommodates skiers of all skill levels. Since the trails are not lit at night, beginners who are unfamiliar with the terrain are advised to avoid going after dark. Trail maps are available at the Smith House—which is at the park entrance—the rental booth in the Beaver Lake Pavilion, as well as on the park’s website. Check trail and weather conditions prior to heading to Mount Royal, either online or by directly calling the park. The ski trails are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Ski rentals are $12 per hour or $18 for three hours.
Tubing is the perfect activity for a clear day—preferably right after a fresh snowfall—to engage in some friendly competition on the slopes. A short walk away from the Beaver Lake Pavilion, the snow tubing hill consists of four lanes, each of which have been uniquely worn down by preceding participants, creating varying speeds. Although the ride down only lasts about half a minute, the thrill of the rush lingers for many hours to come. The snow tubing lanes are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Inner tubes can be rented at the Beaver Lake Pavilion or, for more convenience, at the cabin located at the bottom of the tubing hill, which only takes cash. Rentals are $9 for the entire day, with an added bonus that tubers can leave and return to the slope as many times as they wish during that time. For students who have their own sleds, the other half of the hill is open for tobogganing and is free to the public.