The Town of Banff is starting the new year off with a new outdoor skating rink.
The 20-person rink occupies a section of Bear Street, which Jason Darrah, director of communications for the town, says will hopefully help surrounding businesses after provincewide COVID-19 protocols are lifted.
“We located this new rink on Bear Street for a couple of reasons. One is, this summer, this entire street was under construction … so it had an impact on a lot of the businesses that were here,” he said.
“We really wanted to bring some more love back to Bear Street with activities like the rink.”
He adds that the Banff tourism agency brought an illuminated Banff sign to Bear Street, and plans to have snow sculptures and fire pits in late-January, depending on gathering limits.
“When the restrictions are lifted by the province, when we can get out a little bit more and enjoy businesses in different ways. We’re going to look forward to our restaurants on this street having tables and heaters outside and maybe ice bars and things like that.”
The Bear Street skating rink is the third one in the town — the others are at Banff Avenue and outside the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre.
“There’s a couple of reasons why we opened another rink.… In this time of the COVID pandemic, we really want to create opportunities for outdoor activities, for people to enjoy the special place in the Rockies,” he said.
“So this location helps us actually disperse people because we have to manage the capacity of the rinks.”
Liz Livingstone, a Banff resident who got to skate at the rink Friday, said she really enjoyed the new ice surface.
“I really like this one because … you can’t have sticks and pucks on it. So I prefer to ice skate without sticks and pucks around,” she said.
“It’s nice to have something that’s free for locals to enjoy outdoors, where they don’t have to pay money for it.”
Darrah reminds residents and visitors that Banff requires masks to be worn in the downtown core, which includes the commercial centre of Bear Street but not the ice surface itself.
“People are required to wear a mask when they’re coming in, lacing up their skates and taking off skates. They are not required to on the ice surface, but they’re definitely encouraged to,” he said.
As well, because they need to manage capacity at the rink, the town asks that everyone register online to use the rinks.
“That allows people to register a time slot for anybody in their family to enjoy any of the three rinks that we have in town. And we will have attendants on site to make sure that everybody’s socially distanced and having a great time.”