The city of Edmonton, otherwise known as “Deadmonton,” is so cold most residents enter hibernation mode this time of year. Now a new urban parks project is encouraging local Canadians to embrace the frigid temperatures – on ice. The Edmonton Freezeway in the pilot stages of development offers a 400-meter (1,300-foot) public wooded ice path nearby the Victoria Park Oval, one of Alberta’s most beloved ice rinks. Locals are already skating to and fro on the icy trail, which is slated to become a bike trail by summer and eventually a commuter pathway.
Edmonton native and University of British Columbia landscape architecture graduate student, Matthew Gibbs, conceived the project to “make people fall in love with winter.” Matthew first presented his vision for the project in a video at COLDSCAPES, a 2013 global design competition featuring innovative visions for cities challenged by extremely cold temperatures. Edmonton residents spend nearly five months of the year in below freezing temperatures.
The completed Edmonton Freezeway would function as a full-fledged commuter pathway for citizens to use on a daily basis, spanning 11 kilometers (or 7 miles) through the city center. Over the next few years, the Freezeway is expected to stretch to 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) of icy trail. Currently, most commuters make use of the downtown pedway system, a subterranean walkway that allows them to avoid freezing temperatures.
The Freezeway’s pilot portion, advanced by Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy in collaboration with Make Something Edmonton and the Edmonton Speed Skating Association, is accompanied by a kaleidoscopic lighting installation by artist Dylan Toymaker. Like a “70s roller disco,” the illuminating light scheme has been a delightful accompaniment for nighttime skaters.
The ice path, reminiscent of traditional Dutch skating canals, will be open to the public through winter’s end.