Can I go skating, skiing or warm up with a bonfire? Manitoba restrictions allow for some winter fun

The Manitoba government says some outdoor winter activities are allowed under code red — with restrictions.

You can still skate, sled, and even ski over the holiday without breaking the province’s current COVID-19 restrictions, provided you keep your group small and follow safety measures.

“While the group size limit in outdoor public places is five (with exceptions for households larger than five) we urge Manitobans to only gather with their households,” a spokesperson for the province said in an email to CBC.

If you do decide to take in the outdoors with someone not in your household, the province says you should make sure to physically distance, wear a mask, cover your cough, and stay home if you’re sick.

Skating OK, but you can’t have people at your rink

With rinks and arenas closed, many people have taken to building their own outdoor rink, but the province warns that you can’t have the neighbours over for a skate.

“As this includes both the interior and exterior of the property, only members of the household may use a rink on private property,” the spokesperson wrote.

Shawna Crane, mom of three hockey-playiing boys aged six, 10 and 13, said she understands the rules, but it’s still hard to explain them to her kids.

“My boys are legitimately sick of seeing just each other,” she laughed. “It will be hard for them to not say, ‘Can so-and-so come over and play outside?’

“A good chunk of our friends are doing their own outdoor rinks as well because they know you can’t have your friends over or go anywhere else to do it,” Crane said.

If someone has built a rink on the river or another public place, skating is allowed as long as the group sizes do not exceed five, the province says.

But remember: the City of Winnipeg has warned the rivers are not yet safe for skating, and says never skate on retention ponds.

Amenities like warming shacks must be closed.

Bonfires allowed in parks, not your yard

You can’t have guests over at your place for a bonfire, but the province said using a fire pit in public areas is allowed as long as group sizes do not exceed five.

Asessippi Ski Area & Resort says it’s been given the green light to open Dec. 19. You won’t be able to hang out in the chalet, though — but you can ski up to your car to warm up. (Travel Manitoba)

Skiing allowed, but expect to warm up in your car

Ski hills have just been given the go-ahead to operate under code red, according to Daymon Guillas, president of Asessippi Ski Area and Resort.

The hill will be open starting Dec. 19, he said, but there will be restrictions. Most notably chalets and other warmup huts can’t be open.

“If they need to warm up, they can ski up to their vehicles for a few minutes,” he said. “The parking lot is at the bottom, so you can ski right to your car.”

Unless you’re with members of your household, each person will get to use their chairlift with their own separate chair, Guillas said.

You’ll be able to go into the facilities at Asessippi only to rent equipment, use the lockers and washrooms. 

A student skis last winter in Grand Beach Provincial Park. The province says cross-country skiing is allowed, but chalets and warming huts can’t be open. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Cross-country skis in high demand

Cross-country skiing is also allowed, but you might have trouble renting skis, according to Karin McSherry, executive director of the Cross Country Ski Association of Manitoba.

The association runs Windsor Park Nordic Centre. They’ve decided they won’t be renting skis during code red, she said.

“Getting equipment might be hard this year, because demand is very, very high and supplies are dwindling,” she said.

Cross-country skiing is healthy and and easy option to still be safe, McSherry said.

“You can put on a pair of skis and go even where trails are not groomed, and have a great time,” she said.

Sledding OK too

If you’re hoping to take the kids sledding, that’s allowed too, provided you don’t gather in groups of more than five, the province says.

Even if there are other groups at the hill, that’s OK, provided you keep to your group.