Big chill arrives

Their smiles are growing wider as the outside temperatures fall.

Speed skater Brian McArthur takes to the Red Deer Oval Sunday afternoon to train for the Sylvan Lake Ice Marathon and North American Marathon Speed Skating Championship being held on Feb. 23

Speed skater Brian McArthur takes to the Red Deer Oval Sunday afternoon to train for the Sylvan Lake Ice Marathon and North American Marathon Speed Skating Championship being held on Feb. 23

Their smiles are growing wider as the outside temperatures fall.

While some people dream of basking on sunny beaches, people taking part in the upcoming Sylvan Lake Ice Marathon have been dreaming of a significant bout of very cold weather so they can get their five-kilometre race course ready for competition.

For the first time this year, Sylvan Lake has been awarded with the North American Marathon Speed Skating Championships as part of its annual marathon, hosted by the Foothills Speed Skating Marathon and held on the last weekend in February.

So far, the ice has been too thin for the heavy graders that will be needed to smooth off the ice surface before the Zamboni comes in and puts on the final touches, association chair Mike Messing said on Friday.

Getting ready to practise at the Red Deer speed skating oval on Sunday, marathon skater Brian McArthur said the bone-chilling temperature of -20C that afternoon is a big relief after the balmy weather the region had been experiencing since Christmas.

McArthur, 40 started marathon racing about eight years ago, about the same time as Innisfail-area dairy farmer Rick Dijkstra, 38 become seriously involved.

Both practise at the Red Deer speed skating oval, located between 48 and 47 Avenues, immediately north of the Golden Circle.

As much as the cold weather is welcome in terms of preparing the ice surface, Dijkstra hopes this February will be considerably milder than last year, when it was so cold that some skaters didn’t even start while others couldn’t finish.

It was -25 on the first day of the race and while the second day wasn’t as cold, there was a strong wind that produced blizzard conditions, said Dijkstra.

He is registed for the 25-km Championship as well as the 50 and 100 km races while McArthur plans to complete in the Championship and the 100-km race.

Dijkstra, McArthur and Messing would all like to see more people get involved in speed skating, which Dijkstra said is relatively easy to get into for people who already know how to skate.

McArthur said he first tackled the Red Deer oval on his hockey skates, unsure about what to expect.

He has since graduated to using the hinged clap skates (klapschaats), developed and perfected in the Netherlands to increase the skater’s efficiency by extending the amount of time the blade surface keeps contact with the ice.

This year’s marathon will attract competitors from across the country, including international students who have been studying at the University of Calgary and practising on the indoor oval built there for the 1988 Winter Olympics, said Messing.

But it’s doubtful that the Sylvan Lake marathon will bring back the 200-km race that attracted a strong corps of professional speed skaters from the Netherlands a number of years ago, said both McArthur and Dijsktra.

Because it is so far to travel, Sylvan Lake has not been able to attract enough high-level competitors to make the extra work involved worthwhile, including construction of a 10-km track.

The Sylvan Lake Ice Marathon is part of Alberta International Speed Skating Week, which runs Feb. 18-25 and includes the Silver Skate Festival in Edmonton on Feb. 18 and 19.

Events at Sylvan Lake start at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb, 23, 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24 and at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25.

There is no charge for spectators and there will be plenty of food and beverages available for purchase, including one vendor who specializes in Dutch treats.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 19-day trial has been set for June 2022 for Chase Freed, who is accused of shooting to death a shopper outside the southside Red Deer Walmart and firing shots at two other people in the parking lot. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man who killed a shopper outside Red Deer Walmart in December 2019 to go to trial in 2022

Chase Freed charged with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
All adult Albertans to be offered first dose of vaccine by end of June: Premier

Alberta’s premier says the province will be “back to normal” when 72… Continue reading

Black Press Media file photo
Alberta doctors say trust must be rebuilt after proposed new labour deal rejected

EDMONTON — The head of the Alberta Medical Association says many factors… Continue reading

Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Expert says gathering outside Alberta church attended by many conspiracy theorists

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — An expert investigating hate groups says a weekend… Continue reading

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
Canada set to receive 1M Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Moderna playing catch-up

OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting Moderna to make good on… Continue reading

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

The Montreal Police logo is seen on a police car in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

MONTREAL — Hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal on Sunday in defiance… Continue reading

Most Read