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Winter at The Bentway: Keeping Toronto Cozy Among the Concrete

Image by Denise Militzer

On January 6, we celebrated two years since the opening of The Bentway Skate Trail. Since then, our space has emerged as one of Toronto’s most community-focused winter destinations, serving as a vital gathering place for local neighbours and city-wide visitors, inviting them to stay active and connected during Toronto’s long, cold winters. Now in our third year of operation, we’ve welcomed over 110,000 skaters—and counting—to “Skate the 8” and take part in this unique urban experience.

Located under one of Canada’s busiest elevated roadways, our 220m figure-8 trail weaves its way around the Gardiner Expressway’s iconic concrete columns, stitching together a range of site features and amenities including a hot beverage bar, skate-side patio, skate rental booth, and an interior “Ice House”, which houses day-lockers, washrooms and our Zamboni.

This winter oasis is also home to a variety of free and accessible activities. Visitors can enjoy free skating any day of the week, with free skate rentals available every Thursday from 5pm-9pm (paid rentals are also available during operating hours, for those who don’t have their own). We also offer free drop-in skate lessons for children and adults, and host a rotation of fun and free events like our recent Polar Bear Skate.

Responsible for ensuring our Winter Season runs smoothly is a dedicated on-the-ground staff team that serves as the backbone for all of our year-round programming at The Bentway. Together, this dynamic group of seasonal rink attendants, event assistants, and “Urban Rangers”, support the production of special events, perform maintenance duties, and ensure the safety and enjoyment of visitors on our site.

Rink attendant turned full-time Urban Ranger, Kyle Synowicki, recently reflected on his favourite experiences during his time with us last winter: “We see a lot of regulars during our skate season spanning all ages and experience levels. I loved seeing someone at the beginning of the season who could barely keep their balance on the ice, and then watching them become a more confident skater by their last visit”.

As park enthusiasts, we are humbled and inspired to watch The Bentway—and the way people use it—grow and evolve. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our on-site staff, we’ve embedded a special gathering place for our growing city amidst the concrete columns of the Gardiner Expressway. Two years since The Bentway’s journey began, and we couldn’t be happier with the results!

Photo courtesy of Michael King