Kilt skating the Rockies

We've celebrated the last of the official kilt skates, but the joy of skating in the kilt lives on.

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And when the Rocky Mountains beckon, why not don the kilt, pack the skates and the saltire, and head west out of Calgary. 

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The first stop was the town of Canmore, which recently celebrated its winter carnival.

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Canmore has a beautiful pond near the centre of town that is maintained as a skating rink in the winter. 

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There's a little pavilion where you can change your skates, fasten the saltire to the hockey stick, and skate.

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Everyone wanted a chance to skate with the saltire.

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Here's how the world comes together:  an Australian woman and a South African man fly the Scottish flag on a frozen pond in Canada.

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About an hour up the road from Canmore, you reach Lake Louise, one of Canada's favourite tourism destinations.  The snow had recently fallen.

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But the ice was cleared and flooded for skating.

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People come from all around the world to skate on Lake Louise in the winter.  This father and son are from Bermuda.

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This woman is from Mexico.

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This picture was taken by a man from China.

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This woman had come down from northern Alberta.

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This couple is from Calgary.

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And this man?  Why, he and his family are visiting from Scotland.  The last thing they expected was to skate on Lake Louise waving a Scottish saltire!

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The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are being held in PyeongChang, South Korea. To help spur the Canadian team on, Canadian Tire has sent a crew across Canada to interview people and record their messages for our athletes.  The initiative is called "We All Play for Canada!"

The Canadian Tire crew happened to be in Lake Louise that afternoon.

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I had my turn to record my greeting.  "We ALL play for Canada!"

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I got to brandish the golden hockey stick...

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And hang out with some very fun people.

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Not only does Lake Louise offer the opportunity to skate in breath-taking mountain scenery, it has an equally famous hotel, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

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The "We all play for Canada" crew took a break and so did I.

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But someone had told me that there was a good skating rink on the golf course below the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel -- a 45-minute drive down the Trans-Canada Highway as I headed back to Calgary.  I decided to check it out, arriving as the twilight settled and the snow fell.  Even Bow Falls was frozen over.

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No one was on the skating rink; it was covered in a few centimeters of fluffy snow. 

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But there's no reason not to lace up the skates...

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...even though the knees are getting pretty cold...

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...and there was no one but myself to enjoy the silence of a mountain snowfall...

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...and with the whole white world to myself, I skated...

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...as the night settled in.

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One of the joys of doing any winter activity in Banff is the opportunity to warm up after at the Upper Hot Springs.

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A perfect ending for a perfect day.

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Winnipeg: kilt skating at 30-below

Winnipeg: kilt skating at 30-below

The temperatures in Western Canada on the morning of Sunday, February 11, dropped to the minus-20 range. In Calgary, the skaters were sheltered somewhat by the tall buildings. The Riley Family Duck Pond in Assiniboine Park, on the other hand, has little to shelter it from winds that sweep down from the Arctic.  Wind chill made the temperature feel like it was 30-below.

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North Glengarry shows us a different way

North Glengarry shows us a different way

Weather in the Ottawa Valley has not been kind to plans for kilt skates. When they first envisioned a kilt skate for North Glengarry, the Clan Donald Society imagined kilted skaters on the Alexandria Mill Pond.  But the deep freezes and the rapid thaws and occasional rains of the past weeks made a pond skate impractical.  So they decided to do something different.

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Winnipeg: a seventh kilt skate city!

Winnipeg: a seventh kilt skate city!

WINNIPEG – On Sunday, February 11, at the Riley Family Duck Pond, Qualico Family Centre, Assinboine Park, the people of Winnipeg will take to the ice in their kilts, tartans and other Scottish regalia in an effort to claim the title of “Kilt Skate Capital of Canada.”

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Saskatoon -- The Year of Young People

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has the distinction of being the most northerly kilt skate.  This year, so far, it also has the distinction of being the coldest. 

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Following a mid-winter snowfall, the morning of Saturday, January 27, dawned sunny and cold.  

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By 1 p.m., the temperature had managed to crawl its way up to a balmy minus-19.  But cold weather doesn't keep prairie people indoors.  Some thirty hearty skaters laced up at the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink for the fourth annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate.

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Rachelle Lockwood is a proud member of the Saskatoon Highland Dancing Association.  She's been organizing these kilt skates since 2016.  That's Rachelle in the toque, along with the other organizer Tannis. As a team, they've been organizing kilt skates in Saskatoon since the time when Saskatoon was declared the Kilt Skate Capital of Canada.  

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Even with lower numbers from previous years, Saskatoon will likely take the prize for the "youngest" kilt skate. Probably the cutest too!

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And this being Scotland's "Year of Young People," it's good to know that there's a new generation of Highland dancers coming up through the ranks in Saskatoon -- and they're getting an early taste of... kilt skating!

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And, of course, enjoying a cookie and some hot chocolate.

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For many, it was an opportunity for a first lesson on how to skate..

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Here's a shout out to the Highland dance moms who get the young ones out to the kilt skate each year.

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And a shout out to Pipe Major Sandy Campbell of the North Saskatchewan Regiment Pipes and Drums.

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Each year since 2015, often in the prairie chill, he's been out on the Cameco Meewasin ice, leading the skaters with music.  It's hard to get bagpipes to function properly in extreme cold.  Pipe Major Campbell knows how to tease the sweet sounds in any weather.

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Toronto's Scots come out in big numbers

Toronto's Scots come out in big numbers

After a flurry of social media posts, Scots came out in great numbers to Toronto's second annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate. Outdoor kilt skates are always vulnerable to the weather, and on the Saturday on which the skate was originally scheduled, the rain poured on Nathan Phillips Square. Mind you, that didn't stop some Torontonians from trying out their skates, but I'm glad the City asked us to move our event to Sunday. 

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SSO celebrates Rabbie Burns Day

SSO celebrates Rabbie Burns Day

In past years, Bryan Lyall organized a full Burns dinner for the Scottish Society of Ottawa (SSO), complete with  remembering the Immortal Memory, toasts to Lassies and, of course, the Address to the haggis.  This year, with Brian away on other responsibilities, we gathered for the fun and the fare at The Highlander Pub, where anyone wearing tartan gets a complementary dram.

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Ottawa doubles down

Ottawa doubles down

The Ottawa version of Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate continues to grow.  This year, about a hundred kilted and tartaned skaters gathered at the Lansdowne Park Skating Rink, milling about the tents and taking to the ice on a beautiful winter day. Skating, eating birthday cake and, of course, playing the bagpipes.

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Montreal skate "the best one ever"

Montreal skate "the best one ever"

The temperature was just above freezing but the refrigeration coils kept the ice surface hard at the Natrel Skating Rink in the Old Port of Montreal. More than a hundred Saturday skaters were on the rink, and of them, 34 had donned their kilts and tartans to celebrate the Fourth Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate in that city.

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Ottawa -- the Volunteers make the event

Ottawa -- the Volunteers make the event

Ottawa had a perfect day for a kilt skate today, and about a hundred skaters and spectators gathered at Lansdowne Park Skating Court to celebrate Scotland's contribution to Canada's multicultural fabric. The pictures of the event will follow when our photographer culls his shots, but in the meantime, here's some snaps of the preparations, showcasing our wonderful team of volunteer -- coordinated by wonderful Isobel Adams.

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Ottawa -- Media prep for tomorrow's kilt skate

Ottawa -- Media prep for tomorrow's kilt skate

The first kilt skates of the season begin tomorrow in Montreal and Ottawa.  Here in Ottawa, this means a flurry of media interviews that began earlier this week and will continue on the ice tomorrow. Today, however, there were two television interviews with the local CTV station. The Morning Live show had us rendezvous at Lansdowne Park Skating Court, where the Fourth Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate begins tomorrow at 11 a.m. Peter wired me for sound.

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Montreal rescheduled -- but we skate anyway!

Montreal rescheduled -- but we skate anyway!

It's turned out to be a beautiful day for a kilt skate at the Old Port of Montreal. We're always at the mercy of the weather: last year, for example, Winnipeg had to be cancelled because the ice had melted; this year, Montreal had to be rescheduled because a winter storm walloped the city. But everything works out in the end -- and the ice at Natrel Skating Rink in the Old Port of Montreal was excellent.

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A Kilt Skate for North Glengarry

A Kilt Skate for North Glengarry

There are several communities in Canada that take particular pride in their Scottish heritage.  You'll find them from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, to Red River in Manitoba, to the Alberta city whose name in Gaelic means "clear running water" -- Calgary. But across a nation that is sometimes described as "the Scotland of North America," you'd be hard-pressed to find a community with fiercer pride in its Scottish roots than Eastern Ontario.

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Rideau Canal Skateway opens for its 48th Season

Rideau Canal Skateway opens for its 48th Season

The weather has been subarctic across Canada, but for those waiting for the skating season, one of the benefits has been anticipating the opening of the world's largest skating rink:  the Rideau Canal Skateway. For 7.8 kilometres it curves an arch through the centre of Ottawa -- from the Hartwell Locks at Carleton University to the canal's final descent to the Ottawa River in the heart of downtown.

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Ring in 2018 at Hogman-eh!

Ring in 2018 at Hogman-eh!

For the sixth year in a row, the Scottish Society of Ottawa is throwing the best New Year's party in town -- and the largest Hogmanay celebration outside of Scotland. Thousands are expected at the Aberdeen Pavilion between 5 p.m. and midnight to enjoy the food, dancing, whisky tasting, and live entertainment.  And to warm the Scottish heart on one of the coldest New Year's Eves in memory -- admission is free.

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Cities Vie for the Title: Kilt Skate Capital of Canada

Cities Vie for the Title: Kilt Skate Capital of Canada

For the fourth straight year, skaters across Canada will be taking to outdoor rinks in a unique celebration of Scottish heritage: the annual Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate. What began years ago as a private house party to celebrate a birthday has grown into a friendly, cross-country rivalry for the title of Kilt Skate Capital of Canada.

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