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Toronto’s skate trail under the Gardiner will have a spectacular Northern Lights-inspired vibe


Toronto’s under-Gardiner skate trail opens December 16 at The Bentway, with a new aurora borealis-inspired installation, The Gateway

November 16, 2023 – [Toronto, ON] – The Bentway welcomes back neighbours and outdoor enthusiasts alike for a sixth year of winter programming, launching December 16, 2023. Skaters are invited back to cruise the 220m figure-eight skate trail under the Gardiner Expressway and experience a special, soaring art installation inspired by the glowing hues of the northern lights.

Alongside skating, perennial festive favourites return, including free skate rental nights, free hot chocolate nights, beginner skate lessons, the highly anticipated annual crowd-favourite Polar Bear Skate, and of course, Family Day fun in February.

“Winter is a special time at The Bentway. We love seeing friends, families, and neighbours come together for a uniquely-urban tradition,” said David Carey, Co-Executive Director of The Bentway. “Whether it’s your first time on ice or you’re brave enough to skate in your skivvies for a good cause, we have something for everyone this season.”

New for this year, a colourful procession of woven arches stretches above the skate trail, bringing the magic and movement of the northern lights into the city. Inspired by the natural phenomenon of the aurora borealis and the role of weaving in their cultures, Canadian artistic duo Yi Zhou and Carlos Portillo’s installation The Gateway accentuates the monumental architecture of the Gardiner with vibrant hues of green, blue, violet, and magenta. The piece was selected from a national call for submissions and commissioned by The Bentway for this winter season, supported by TD Bank Group.

“Unique and inclusive art experiences like Yi Zhou and Carlos Portillo’s The Gateway have the power to connect people and communities while transforming everyday places and objects,” said Stuart Keeler, Senior Art Curator, TD Bank Group. “Through the TD Ready Commitment, TD is proud to support organizations and initiatives like The Bentway that increase access to the arts and create togetherness within local communities.”

Fulsome details about all of The Bentway’s winter programming found below.

Winter Skating Hours

During the holidays (December 16 to January 7)

Open Daily: 12:00 pm-9:00 pm. 

Skate rentals (until 8:00 pm), skate sharpening, and concessions will be available to purchase.

After the holidays (January 8 to February 19)

Open weekends, holidays, and TDSB Elementary P.A. days: 12:00 pm-9:00 pm.

Open weekdays: 5:00 pm-9:00 pm 

Skate rentals (until 8:00 pm) and skate sharpening available for a fee during opening hours. Concessions open Fridays through Mondays.

Special free offerings visitors can enjoy from January 8 to February 19:

  • Billy Bishop Free Rental Fridays – Free skate rentals are available every Friday from 5:00 pm-8:00 pm starting January 12, courtesy of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
  • Free Hot Chocolate Mondays – Mondays are fun-days at the Bentway! Come enjoy free hot chocolate before or after skating, every Monday from 5:00 pm-9:00 pm starting January 8, courtesy of CityPlace and Fort York BIA.
  • Free Beginner Skate Lessons – Expert instructors will help novice skaters build essential skills every Tuesday starting January 9. Youth lessons for children aged 6 to 12 will be from 6:30 pm-7:30 pm; lessons for those aged 13 and up will be from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Registration for the first three dates opens January 3.

Special Programming

  • Polar Bear Skate [December 31] – The Bentway’s wildest winter tradition returns! Brave Torontonians are invited to strip down to their skivvies (or bathing suits!) and skate the trail for a good cause on December 31 at noon. Our annual Polar Bear Skate is both a clothing drive and a bold way to close out the year. Clothing donations collected onsite will be distributed to Torontonians in need, with Bentway partner New Circles Community Services.
  • Weaving Workshop [January 13] – Inspired by The Bentway’s winter installation, The Gateway, and its theme of weaving community together in the cold winter months, this hands-on workshop led by OCAD University textile artist Colleen McCarten will provide an opportunity for individuals of all skill levels to learn the fundamentals of weaving and contribute to the creation of a large-scale tapestry. January 13, 2024, 1:00pm-4:00pm, The Bentway Studio.
  • Northern Lights Astronomy [January 27] – The Bentway’s winter installation, The Gateway, celebrates the brilliance of the northern lights, which are at their most vibrant in the depths of winter. On January 27, 2024 from 5:00pm-6:30pm, join astronomer Dr. Laurie Rousseau-Nepton at The Bentway Studio for an evening of learning and traditional oral storytelling rooted in her Innu culture. 
  • Family Day at The Bentway [February 19] – Celebrate Family Day at The Bentway with an afternoon of skating, family-friendly activities, music, refreshments, and more! Everyone is welcome for this fun-filled day at your favourite skate trail under the Gardiner. The full program including free activities, schedule, and vendors, will be announced in January. 

New this year, a Holiday Market will take over The Bentway’s Strachan Gate every Saturday and Sunday from December 2-31, hosted by Street Eats Market. Enjoy an artisan market, sugar shack, food stalls, and much more, all with free admission. 

Community Care

Winter can be hardest for Toronto’s most vulnerable residents. For the fourth year in a row, Bentway visitors will be invited to pay-it-forward to the local community. Fueled by cash donations from skaters, Winter Care Kits (including gloves, hats, hand-warmers, grocery gift cards, and more) will be distributed to local residents experiencing homelessness and poverty. Donations can be made as a top-up to skate rental and bar transactions or online.

Full details on the Winter 2023-24 season can now be found at thebentway.ca. Starting December 16, information on any weather-related closures will also be posted online.

About The Gateway artists

Yi Zhou is a Chinese-born multidisciplinary designer interested in leveraging the intersection of architecture, ecology, and new media to create memorable connections between people and place. Carlos Portillo is a Mexican-born multidisciplinary designer whose interests are rooted in urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture

The Gateway render by Carlos Portillo and Yi Zhou

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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