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Though I enjoy going to the Nathan Phillip’s Square or Harbourfront skating rinks every now and then, I have to say, skating around in circles gets kind of boring fast.

This evening on the Toronto Islands, I experienced a whole different kind of skating. What I would have called “adventure skating” is actually called Nordic Skating (or trip skating, or wild skating) in Scandanavia. That this is a thing rocks my notions of what’s possible on skates, helping me out from the barricades of a cordoned-off rink and into the unconfined terrain of the frozen city.

Getting onto the ice via the canals that run between Algonquin and Ward’s Islands, I slowly skated my way toward the ever expanding harbour view of Toronto across the water. Somewhat hesitant to continue out to the open harbour by myself, I was about to turn back, when an Islander emerged from the banks with skates and an ice pokey in tow. He invited me out to the open harbour with him, poking the ice in front of him to make sure it was thick enough to cross.

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Once we got to the open harbour, the views were spectacular. With the wild brush of the Island to our left, the humming, steel and metal conglomerate of downtown Toronto was sublime across the frozen bay. As the sun set, the hues of the skyline began to match the icy coldness of the lake and sky. We spent a good amount of time enjoying the expansive freedom of the terrain. No one else was out on the ice.

To get back, we went around Algonquin Island, making a big loop.

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Nordic/trip/wild/adventure was an exhilarating experience, and I look forward to seeking it out in my future travels. This evening, skating through narrow canal passes and onto the frozen-over waters of Lake Ontario before the behemouth city provided stimulation for my urban explorer’s mind. Plus, it provided  another mode of getting to know the Islands terrain deeply. Wild-skating seems to me to be a less superficial winter sport than downhill skiing. It is rather a vehicle for exploration, for forging connections with the slowly passing landscape, for getting to know a place at a humane pace. 

I look forward to the continued deep freeze and the changes to the landscape it will bring to the Toronto Islands: each day, with the melt and thaw cycles, new terrain becomes accessible and is begging to be explored.

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