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Wind, warmth, rain and snow; how the Oval deals with changing weather

Systems built into the Oval and a talented crew keep the Oval open

3 min read
caption Someone enjoying a skate around the Oval on a snowy morning.
Nick Cantar

Like most winters, the weather has been both above and below zero, yet staff at the Emera Oval, Halifax’s free outdoor skating rink, have been able to maintain the ice.

“Our ice crew is phenomenal,” said Shauna Moulton, the aquatic and leisure specialist for the Oval. “They’ve worked with varying temperatures and weather and can do incredible things with our ice to maintain it, and make sure it’s safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

This is because there are pipes running through the concrete pad underneath the ice. These pipes, called chillers, circulate glycol which keeps the entire Oval cold. On days when the weather is below zero the chillers don’t need to be used, but when the temperature creeps above zero, that’s when the chillers get turned on to keep the ice from melting.

Moulton said that maintaining the ice is harder in early spring when the days are longer, but heavy snow is a bigger issue for the staff than warm weather. When there is lots of snow, the staff will close the Oval so they can clear the ice. However, according to Moulton, the Oval doesn’t close very often.

caption Oval staff member clearing snow from the ice.

“The crew is so well versed in dealing with an outdoor arena,” said Moulton. “They go out and they monitor it and they make the tweaks and changes as they need to. But yeah, like I said, they’re incredible.”

Because the Oval can stay open during most winter weather, skaters can decide for themselves if they want to brave the elements for a free skate. This is good news for Jim MacMillan and Claude Laing, who try to come to the Oval every weekday.

But even avid skaters like MacMillan and Laing avoid the Oval during March or if it’s very windy. Laing thinks that “planting some trees around the edge to shelter [them] a bit from the wind” could be helpful. Despite the wind issue, the men are happy overall with the Oval.

caption Skaters on the Oval.

“I’m a big fan of supporting physical exercise in any way, and this has been one of the best things the city has done in a long time. To put a facility right here where so many people live in the area. They can walk to the rink and get some fresh air and exercise. You see families coming all the time. It’s just fantastic,” said Laing.

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About the author

Nick Cantar

Nick Cantar is a journalist for The Signal. He is curious about all kinds of stories. When not working, Nick enjoys being outdoors.

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