Ontario, Yours to Discover.
This phrase has been our provincial tagline since it debuted in 1981 in a bid to compete with the “I Love New York” ads. We really do have a lot to discover across our expansive province and one of the best ways to do this is by exploring our 334 Ontario Provincial Parks. Put together, these parks cover an area approximately the size of Nova Scotia.
On a snowy but pleasant Saturday morning, we arrived at Bronte creek to enjoy their Olympic size outdoor skating rink and locally famous tobogganing hill. There is no admission charge but rather a parking fee of $16 (the same price at every provincial park). Because of the parking fee, it makes sense to try to fit in as much as you can do in a day. In addition to skating and sledding, Bronte Creek offers a kids Play Barn, hiking trails and much more that we’ll be experiencing later this year.
A lot of people think that the park’s giant-size swimming pool transforms into the skating rink in the winter. It’s actually three basketball courts just behind the pool that host the ice surface. There are pipes below the asphalt that are cooled by a nearby refrigeration plant. At the start of the season, a fire hose is used to flood the surface and, with the help of a Zamboni, a skating rink is born!
After 20 minutes or so of skating, we decided it was time for a halftime break and made our way to the nearby Park Store store for some hot chocolate and a treat from the snack bar. We noticed that Bronte Creek offers a large selection of rental skates for visitors who don’t bring their own.
Skating at Bronte Creek combines the joys of outdoor skating with the amenities of an arena. A large indoor change room next to the rink allowed us to put our skates on without our hands feeling the bite of the winter wind. Long stretches of rubber mats extend from the change room to the rink and store.
After an hour or so we decided to pack up and head home for lunch. We returned later in the afternoon with toboggans in tow to brave the dizzying heights of Bronte’s snow capped peak.
Bronte Creek features a fantastic double-sided hill with a good run off at the bottom and no trees. There’s great tobogganing on both sides with a steeper slope on the east end that affords long, fast runs. Jr Burlington came to call this carved path “Rapid Run” because it offered the most thrills of any hill he’d ever been on!
Surprisingly, given the nice weather, there were only a handful of other families out that afternoon. We tried the runs on both sides of the hill over and over (and over) again. I always forget how much exercise one gets walking back up the hill after the quick ride down.
Baby Burlington was happy to stay at the top of the hill in a miniature sled that I bought just that morning on Kijiji.
After an hour or so of fun, we packed up for home. A chili dinner with garlic bread was the perfect way to cap off a day spent playing on ice and snow.
Does this all sound like fun? It is! Resist the urge to hibernate this winter and get outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. But you better hurry, the ice rink at Bronte Creek remains open only until the last Sunday of February and the tobogganing hill transforms back into simple scenery with the melting of the snow.