A Montréal municipal Web site
Experiencing My City
Restaurant Day

Winter laneways

Published on
February 20, 2017
Most laneways, you’d imagine, are deserted in winter—but not Montréal’s, which are transformed into skating rinks, sliding runs, and snow castle exhibitions.

Wine, hot chocolate and homemade cookies are on the winter tasting menu at No 13—not the name of a latest coffee craze, but that of a white laneway in Villeray created by Marie-Hélène Roch and her neighbours.

Marie-Hélène Roch

Just like the green laneways that served as their inspiration, white laneways are a way of reappropriating the urban space. And while there's no official count, since citizens are the driving force behind the initiative, each white laneway is unique in its own way. Several have skating rinks, others slides, furniture and even decorations. Before the holiday season, residents of laneway No 13 put up Christmas trees.

"Everyone was invited to decorate them," explains Marie-Hélène Roch, "and they'll stay there until the end of the winter."

Noël dans la Ruelle No 13 - Décoration de sapin

Thanks to activities such as these, white laneways foster a sense of community at a time of year when people tend to stay home.

"The separation between indoors and outdoors is more pronounced in winter," says Ms. Roch. "Together, we're trying to create a cocoon that's conducive to gathering."

A good way to make the most of the white laneways is to use them to practice your favourite sports. The people behind the Tandem program have clearly understood this, by presenting weekly after-school activities until March 23 in a selection of five laneways in the Rosemont−La Petite-Patrie borough.

The activities include hockey, dodgeball, croquet on snow, snow castle building, and even dog-sledding: Tandem's objective is to motivate young people aged 4 to 14 to tear themselves away from their screens.

"We want to get them moving and help them rediscover the joys of winter in the city," says project leader Sadie Caron.

Hockey will also be on the program in laneway No 13 next year, as residents plan to build a skating rink for children. Marie-Hélène Roch is also intent on optimizing the existing urban furniture by offering warming stations. Another idea she's toying with: designing an exploratory guide to Montréal's white laneways that showcases their uniqueness.