skating toronto

The Toronto website for outdoor skating reservations is so outdated it feels like 1998

Outdoor skating rinks in Toronto are finally open again, giving the public one more activity to do safely while stuck in stringent lockdown, and an excuse to get outside during a time when most of us have few reasons to leave the house.

But because of COVID-19, a number of new protocols are in place, the most notable ones being that residents must don masks on the ice and can no longer simply show up to their local rink and strap on their skates like they would in the good ol' days.

As is the case with virtually every public space lately, the city's 54 manufactured outdoor rinks now have capacity limits — of 25 people at a time each — meaning skaters will have to book a time slot in advance of arriving to ensure safe physical distancing.

The 45-minute appointments need to be reserved through the city's dedicated eFun portal, but unfortunately the system is quite anachronistic and tricky to navigate.

The site has some pretty serious Windows 98 vibes — but hey, '90s aesthetics are super in right now, right? — and lists a whole slew of other recreational options that aren't applicable this season, making it a bit of a process to find what you're looking for.

To book, users have to select "reservations" from a program list (no, not "skating," counterintuitively enough), and then click on the Leisure/Public Skate (Outdoor Park) option.

Then comes the task of scrolling through pages of thousands of options for specific time and date slots at various rinks across the city, with the soonest ones at the top, making booking well in advance quite the feat.

It doesn't help that the interface seems to load data very slowly and sometimes gives up on you and takes you to a different page.

skating toronto

The City's eFun portal.

Once you've found the date, time and rink of your choosing, you'll need to note its specific barcode, and then enter that code in a field at the top. You'll also need to make an account with your personal information (for contact tracing purposes) in order to secure the slot, which you do by adding the slot with desired barcode to your cart after looking it up.

After that, the hassle is over, and it's just a matter of showing up 10 minutes before your reservation time to check-in in-person. And really, what more should we expect from a municipality site — it gets the job done (eventually), and that's all that matters.

You can also always sign up at a rink in-person if you prefer, and you can try your luck at snagging one of the 10 slots that are reserved per rink per day for walk-ups.

Sadly, the popular lakefront rink known for hosting DJ nights is staying closed this year, but the rest of the rinks will be open until March 21, 2021, weather permitting.

Their general hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, but always check the city's website for specifics and for potential alerts to impacted service before you head out.

And, when you do get there, note that the great Canadian pastime of shinny hockey isn't being permitted at city rinks this year, in line with the provincial order forbidding team sports in regions in the red and grey zones of Ontario's reopening framework.

A petition has popped up as a result, with hundreds of Torontonians demanding that the sport be allowed, especially seeing as all other leagues and games are cancelled and we're desperate for any sort of fun right now.

Lead photo by

Lyle Glen

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