Skating Ratings: University of Toronto’s Varsity Arena

In addition to the privilege of taking five 100% finals this year, my law school fees get me free entrance to the university’s skating rink. And since tuition at U of T Law is more than the average Canadian’s annual income, I might as well take advantage of the perks. So I’m aiming to skate on campus as much as possible, at least until the city’s outdoor rinks open.

And the Varsity Arena is really nice. For one, it’s massive and well-Zambonied — the school’s hockey teams practice and compete there, after all — and skate rentals are a mere $3 for U of T students and $5 for everyone else. Skate sharpening is available as well ($5/$8), and since the arena is indoors, there’s no freezing your fingers as you lace up (tradeoff: there’s far less ambiance).

My favourite part, however, of the Varsity Arena Skating Experience was the people — and lack thereof. Because it’s a university rink, there were absolutely no small children on the ice when I went on a Friday afternoon. There’s family skate time on Sunday evenings, but given my abject terror of tripping over a five-year-old and knocking her teeth out, I will skip those sessions.

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So who was on the ice? There were international students wobbling around the edge of the rink in CSA-approved hockey helmets. There were skaters one level up, determinedly practising sculling and stopping and one-foot glides. There were clusters of friends skating clockwise, competent but more focused on gossip than on technique. There were fresh-faced undergrad couples skating hand in hand, at least until one of them decided to dart ahead and show off their tricks and the other clapped adoringly from half a rink behind. And there were the figure skating super stars who twirled around the centre of the ice while the rest of us plebs stuck to sensible circles.

It was a delightful microcosm of Toronto, or at least young downtown able-bodied Toronto, and I loved that people’s skating skills really challenged stereotypes. Sure, the figure skaters were mostly young, lithe twenty-something women, but there was also a portly balding gentleman practising his fancy footwork. The tall blond Nordic-looking guy you’d have thought was playing shinny before he could read? He was one of the board-clutchers still finding his ice legs. And his buddies, showing off side-stops and crossovers, were black and Asian.

Rating: 4/5 skates ⛸️⛸️⛸️⛸️

Pros: Spacious, heated changing areas, cheap rentals, no small, unpredictable children flying by on blades

Cons: Limited drop-in skating hours (Monday, Tuesday and Friday afternoons, plus family skate on Sunday evenings)

 

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