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Embracing winter, pandemic or no pandemic

How are you navigating a COVID-19 winter? Albertans are finding creative ways to make it through.

As pandemic restrictions linger, Albertans have been turning to their own backyards to embrace winter.

From a flood of orders for build-your-own backyard rinks to a spike in hot tub sales, people of all ages are coping with COVID-19 restrictions in a variety of ways.

Dario Campagna of St. Albert is thankful his sharp-eyed wife, Sharon, spotted an ad on Facebook for a Dad's Rink Kit. He said the quick installation of a 20-foot-by-40 foot sheet in their backyard has filled a much-needed void for the couple's three energetic sons.

 ''We couldn't get to the rinks because they've been closed. This has been fantastic," said Campagna, who often plays goalie for the boys, age 9, 10 and 15. "The boys are obsessed with it. They are out there every day." 

 Jordan Chorneyko of Edmonton-based Dad's Rink said they've been extremely busy this year. The kits, which come in a variety of sizes, are usually ready for skates in about a week. 

 "There are no tools.  All you have to bring is a shovel and a water source." said Chorneyko. "One customer bought a kit for his grandchild, and then came back the next day to buy another kit for another grandchild."

 Others are opting for a less strenuous backyard experience.

 Bernie Reid, owner of Bernie's Hot Tubs, said he is as busy as he’s ever been due to the pandemic effect.

"I have all 25 (rental tubs) out," said Reid, adding that it would now be at least a two-month wait to have a hot tub delivered and set up. 

The delay is even longer for anyone wanting to buy a hot tub, said Katelyn Cherniak of Lakeland Arctic Spas in Bonnyville. 

"The wait is three to four months to have a hot tub delivered and set up at your home, due to COVID-19 restrictions and high demand," she said.

Thankfully, Lisa Stewart of Sherwood Park along with her husband Darin and four adult children have had a hot tub for years and are able to regularly enjoy a backyard soak.

"It has become part of our routine. The tub is where we chat, reconnect, laugh and just enjoy the heat and jets on our sometimes-aching backs from a long day's work," said Stewart. "We absolutely love our back yard and have many great family memories back there."

Even without a hot tub, the warmth of a fire pit is always a popular outdoor draw.

Dwayne Scott of Edmonton built an ice wall as a wind guard so he and wife, Barb, can comfortably gather around their fire pit – even on those chilly nights. 

"We've got insulated packing blankets and we'll gather around the fire. It's very comfy," said Barb.

She said Dwayne began building the wall in November which is now a metre and a half high on one side and one metre high on the other. 

Ashley Cote, marketing coordinator at Barbecues Galore in Calgary said fire pit sales are up, adding “people want to make their backyard a place to escape to. It's especially true now that it’s difficult to not just travel abroad, but even to dine at a local restaurant.”

Beverly Kaine has turned to a farmyard 20 minutes west of her St. Albert home to find comfort during COVID-19.

The substitute teacher drives to a co-op farm three times a week to interact with and tend to the 10 goats she bought last year. 

"Goats are loving. They are really curious about what human beings are doing," Kaine said. "I went in with very little knowledge. It has given me a purpose."