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Skating lanes turn to pools

The bad news is the outdoor ice oval at Exhibition Park is closed.

The bad news is the outdoor ice oval at Exhibition Park is closed.

Now into a second week, the prolonged thaw that has left lawns exposed and turned city streets into sheets of ice has liquified the 400m outdoor ice oval, forcing its closure as of Monday.

Now for the good news. Colder weather is on the horizon, and if there had to be a closure, now's probably the best time. That's because the Zamboni ice resurfacer that made for smooth sailing for skaters in December and early January is broken, and is in the shop for repairs.

"There was about two inches of standing water on the oval as of (Tuesday) and it did get colder and froze a little bit," said Kathy Lewis, chair of the Outdoor Ice Oval Committee.

"It's pretty normal to have a January thaw. I'm just glad the Zamboni didn't break during the time just after Christmas when it warmed up enough. We had some awesome ice then.

"It does take a lot to melt ice and we put huge numbers of truckloads of water down this year so I think we have a good base layer. I'm hoping we won't have to go back to using the water truck again, it just depends on how long the warm weather lasts."

After an overnight low of -1C, the forecast calls for a high of 3C today with rain or snow and a low tonight of -1. Friday's high is expected to hit 4C, with a low of -3C, and Saturday will remain below freezing with a high of -1C and low of -6C predicted.

"We need it cold enough to freeze the water that's on there before we can open it again," said Lewis.

The oval committee has reverted to its original management style, with fees collected from users on the honor system at a drop box located at the rink, and it's been a busy place. An experiment last year to impose higher user fees, restrict opening times and hire on-ice marshalls to protect skaters on the volunteer-maintained rink resulted in dramatic drop in the number of skaters on what is traditionally one of the city's most popular winter sports facilities.

"We're getting positive feedback and people seem to be doing a good job of paying the fee, and are abiding by the rules," said Lewis. "We haven't had any major issues and we're really happy with the numbers. Every time I've gone down there to check on things I've seen people."

The ice oval will be used in the 23rd annual Prince George Citizen Iceman multisport endurance race, set for Sunday, Feb. 14. Iceman registration is limited and the deadline to register is Feb. 10 at 9 p.m. After Feb. 3, the cost increases by $5 per entry. Go to www.pgcitizen.ca for more information.