The Edmonton Freezeway: A genius made-in-Canada plan

A pilot project for an artificial ice trail designed for skating commuters inspired our own quintessentially Canadian solutions to urban problems

An artist's rendering of the proposed Edmonton Freezeway. (Matthew Gibbs/Screen capture from Vimeo)

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Edmonton Freezeway (Matthew Gibbs/Screen capture from Vimeo)

Here’s some classic Canadian ingenuity for you: In 2013, as an architecture student in the University of British Columbia’s graduate program, Matthew Gibbs found that Edmonton spends five months of the year in below-freezing temperatures. So why not take advantage of that and build an 11-km artificial ice trail—the first of its kind in Canada—that Edmontonians can skate on?

The result was his proposed Edmonton Freezeway, which won him first place in the 2013 COLDSCAPES international design competition. It would follow in the footsteps—skate steps?—of Ottawa’s winter use of the Rideau Canal or The Forks in Winnipeg.

Edmonton’s city planner, Susan Holdsworth, says Gibbs’s idea has gained steam, telling the BBC: “We thought we’d have to push the snowball up hill. Instead, it’s like we’re riding downhill, gaining momentum, going faster all the time.” And now, organizers say they’ll give the project a try “as early as next winter,” proving that sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones that take advantage of what you already have.

So, while we’re at it, we came up with a few other made-in-Canada solutions to other ongoing problems:

  • Bypass U.S. President Barack Obama’s expected Keystone XL veto by erecting a pipeline made of ice;
  • Develop snow-fort technology to save money on domestic defence measures in these times of fiscal restraint;
  • From December to March, federal MPs must use snowmen as their proxies when speaking in the House of Commons, so that they may only grandstand during question period for as long as their snowman has not melted;
  • Create ice slides from the windows of each federal department so as to increase transparency in Ottawa and expedite information requests to press (those responses must be slid down in paper form, after all, since Treasury Board President Tony Clement worries that digital data can be altered);
  • Slay the deficit by using the maple syrup stolen in the great sweet heist of 2012—estimated to be worth $30 million—and up-selling in the form of maple candies, which we can all agree are overpriced (that small amount of additional labour should at least triple Canada’s profits);
  • Create backpack energy mills powered by NHL players’ movement to harness their athleticism and generate electricity during hockey games so as to ease our fears about energy consumption;
  • Help former Toronto mayor Rob Ford befriend a few beavers, so he can change his racist beliefs about Asians and instead focus his remarks on noble, hard-working beavers who “work like dogs” and “are slowly taking over.”

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