Near the old oil refinery on the Dartmouth waterfront, two men in safety vests approach a group of young guys shovelling snow at the base of a concrete wall. The shovellers freeze.
“What are you guys doing? Shovelling snow?” one of the men calls out.
Relieved, the guys trip over each other to respond. “Yeah, yes we are.”
This is a familiar scene to Ian MacArthur, a local snowboarder who spends a lot of time scouring the city for places to ride. MacArthur rides street spots, part of a subgenre of snowboarding known as jibbing.
With the masses of snow piled up in Halifax this year, these are high times for MacArthur and his friends.
“Usually we have to push snow to our spots,” he says, “this year we’re digging them out.”
All the blizzards have opened up new places to ride, places he’s scouted in the past but couldn’t ride because the snow wasn’t there.
“We’ve never had conditions like this...it’s been unreal” says MacArthur.
Still, riding a snowboard in town isn’t well understood by a lot of Haligonians.
“People have no idea what we’re doing,” says MacArthur, who often has to explain himself to concerned citizens and is sometimes told to leave spots by property owners or security guards. “If you’re nice to people, it goes a long way.”
Just before MacArthur and his group start testing their new spot in Dartmouth, an employee comes by. Once again the group is worried it’ll be shut down. But MacArthur recognizes the man and they chat for a minute before the group resumes shovelling.
Having lived and snowboarded on the west coast for a number of years, MacArthur loves that small-town attitude back in his home province.
“I find people on the east coast are happy to accommodate you,” he says. “The scene here is good, such happy people.”