Giving mother nature a little help

Sometimes we Canadians are impatient for winter.  In our neighbourhood, there’s a lot to look forward to: x-country skiing along the river; tobogganing on Brody’s Hill or at Lansdowne berm; enjoying the world’s largest skating rink on Rideau Canal Skateway.

We also take great pleasure – and pride – in what is reportedly the best natural outdoor skating rink in the National Capital Region.

Windsor Park has the best outdoor ice for a reason. For one thing,  weather permitting, an army of community volunteers work together so that, every night, a team goes out go out to flood the rink.

Part of the secret is to have a good snow base.  The snow provides a uniform white underlay that reflects the sun, and doesn’t absorb heat.  Where the snow base is too thin and the darker underlying grass and dirt show through, the ice will melt.

So, after the first centimeters of snow fell last week, the intrepid volunteers wanted to get an early start on ice prep.

Everyone got into the act.

There was a lot of snow to be moved.

The snow has to be packed down as well.  For Mezen and Hanadi, exiles from Syria enjoying the winter in Ottawa, the stomping down of snow provides a different kind of experience.

The volunteers strove to improve upon mother nature by moving snow from other parts of the park, and packing it between the boards where it is needed most, before spraying the first thin layer of water.

The next day, the fragile layer of snow has an equally fragile skin of ice.

Mother nature has a mind of her own – and a sense of humour. A few days later, she dumped another 10 cm of fresh snow on the city, and the volunteers could begin the packing and flooding process again – this time without the need to haul snow in from elsewhere.

It’s all going to contribute to making this year one of the best ever on the Windsor Park rink.