Thanks to climate change, the number of days where it will be cold enough in the Greater Toronto Area to skate on a backyard or park ice rink could shrink by as much as one third in 75 years’ time, a new study suggests.

A study by Wilfrid Laurier University professors Colin Robertson, Robert McLeman and Haydn Lawrence says a “cold” winter in the year 2090 might only contain 26 days where it’s cold enough to skate outdoors. That stands in stark contrast with last winter, when Toronto had nearly seven straight weeks of cold conditions.

“Last winter, which was an ideal winter for skating, we had a nice block of 47 days, from January to March in Toronto where we had perfect conditions for skating,” McLeman said of his group’s findings.

The study compared temperature data gleaned from nearly 1,000 backyard ice rink users across North America across two winter seasons —2012 to 2013 and 2013 to 2014 —and put that against the International Panel on Climate Change’s “A2” warming scenario, which scientists believe is the most feasible warming path currently predicted.

“In one sense, it’s one of those glass half full, half empty (scenarios) because going into it we thought (skating) would be gone altogether,” McLeman said.

He said -5 C is the “magic number” for ice skating outdoors. When the mercury consistently rises above that, it’s difficult to keep an outdoor ice rink thick enough for good skating.

With a skating season of less than one month, McLeman said it’s likely that Toronto residents of the future will conclude building an outdoor rink isn’t worth the trouble.

“At what point do you say ‘I’m not putting out the boards and the liner for three and a half weeks of skating’?”

In Montreal, the study found similar findings to Toronto, concluding the average outdoor ice skating season could shrink by 34 per cent by 2090. In Calgary, the length of the ice skating season could shrink by 20 per cent.

McLeman said the study is meant to provide Canadians living in temperate areas of Canada an example of an activity that could be threatened by the changing climate.

“Your average person living in the Golden Horseshoe is not going to see a polar bear or a glacier in their lifetime. Yet that’s the messaging we get constantly in the media, polar bear habitat is disappearing, glacier ice is disappearing, it has no tangible connection to the average person in metro Toronto.”

“But when you say ‘the kids won’t be able to skate outdoors in the future,’ people say ‘hey, wait a minute’.”