April 23, 2021

With the first major snowfall of the year came the first day of Waterloo Region being subject to control measures for COVID-19, or what is colloquially known as the “red zone.” The need for locking down once more unfortunately puts a damper on winter activities, especially for children. During this time of strict social distancing and gathering restrictions, here are a couple things that you can, and can’t, do this winter in the red zone.

Can: Go skiing at your favourite resort

Luckily, despite Toronto and Peel regions being in the grey lockdown zone and Waterloo region being in red zone, many ski hills and resorts are remaining open as they have implemented operational safety plans and other contingencies to allow visitors to enjoy a day on the slopes.

Photo from Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort // Facebook. Chicopee ski hill before the first snowfall of the season.

Locally, Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort in Kitchener does have an operation plan listed on their website and plans on being open for business throughout the season. This will include their ski hills as well as the adjacent Chicopee Tube Park, though they advise to book ahead. For skiers willing to travel, Blue Mountain ski resort in Collingwood, Ont. also plans on being open for the season, though priority will be given to season pass holders.

Can’t: Free skate at your local ice rink

Unfortunately, ice rinks are tougher to regulate that ski hills, and many local free skate programs have been shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions. This includes the Cambridge Centre’s ice rink and Hespeler Memorial Arena in Cambridge. A glimmer of hope lies in the fact that outdoor rinks such as the seasonal areas in front of Kitchener City Hall and Waterloo Town Square have not formally announced their closures yet, so keep an eye on whether or not to shelve your skates for the season.

Can: Go tobogganing on a local hill.

There is very little that can stop a child’s ingenuity in having a good time during a winter season, especially if it involves achieving maximum velocity down an icy slope. It is also highly unlikely that there will be a local hill that will have more than 25 tobogganers at once, so this is a fairly safe bet unless you draw the ire of a picky by-law official. To make things easier, there is a crowd-sourced Google map that identifies tobogganing hills in the region, as well as a couple in Guelph.

In an odd note on the map, the Ontario hills are lumped in with Manitoba, and those listed in the region are few and far between. The City of Kitchener, however, does host a list of tobogganing hills on the municipal website.

            Can’t: Visit your local Christmas Market.

Photo from Christkindl Market // Facebook. The market has moved to online, with various feature being presented as an advent calendar.

            Kitchener’s Christkindl Market and Cambridge’s Christmas Market have moved to online formats this year. While you won’t be able to enjoy apple cider on the steps of Kitchener City Hall or visit vendors on all levels of Cambridge City Hall, accommodations have been made to allow for online shopping for registered vendors at the markets.

            A sparkly alternative is the drive up to St. Jacobs, where the St. Jacobs Sparkles event at local shops is ongoing throughout the holiday season, as opposed to it’s usual weeklong tenure.

            Despite cancellations, there is still plenty to do in the region, and despite lockdowns looming over these events, it’s still important for people to spend some time outdoors and enjoy the festive season.

 A report from the University of Waterloo and Professor Troy Glover of Waterloo’s Recreation and Leisure program says that it’s incredibly important for people to head out and enjoy their usual events, noting that the outdoors mitigates the risk of contracting COVID-19 so long as people follow public health guidelines.

The report also notes that keeping active during the winter and making the most of public spaces will reduce a potential surge in “Winter blues” and keep people more engaged in their community and less dampened by COVID-19.

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