credit: K Martinko — Making a rink the old-fashioned way, with buckets of water hauled from a hole in the ice
You haven’t really skated until you’ve skimmed across the surface of a frozen lake or river, avoiding bumps and cracks, crunching over snow or crackly ice, immersed in the silence of a forest that stands along the water’s edge – although there are plenty of sounds if you know how to listen. You can hear cold tree branches cracking, chickadees singing, the eerie thud of contracting ice. If you skate at night, you may hear owls, even wolves. This is Canada in wintertime, and one of the best ways to discover it is on a pair of skates.
In recent years there has been a shift toward outdoor skating and getting out of the arenas that feature prominently in every Canadian town and city. Many communities have built ice skating loops or trails, which have become very popular. These give non-hockey-playing skaters something more to do than circle a rink (although that’s fun, too).
The following slideshow features several beautiful ice skating trails, some big and some small, spread across the country. Most will open now in January until end of February/early March.
Arrowhead’s skating trail in Huntsville, Ontario, was created on a whim in 2012 and, much to its creators’ amazement, became on the hottest winter attractions in Ontario. It has been featured in news around the world and now attracts weekend crowds that can result in hour-long waits for entry to the trail. It’s recommended you visit on Sundays or weekdays for the best chance of getting in.
The trail winds for 1.3 kilometres (nearly one mile) through the forest, and its Fire & Ice Nights, when the trail is lit by burning tiki torches, are particularly popular.
See Discover Muskoka or visit the offical Arrowhead website for more information.
Lake Windermere is a large lake located in the Columbia River Valley of southeastern British Columbia. In winter, local communities groom a 34-kilometer track that runs around the lake and connects the towns of Invermere and Windermere. The track is divided into three sections – one for skating, one for skate-skiing, and one for classic cross-country skiing.
Having visited Lake Windermere in the summertime, I can attest to the spectacular beauty of the region, with the Kootenay Rockies rising to the east of the valley and the Purcell Mountains on the west. I can only imagine how stunning it must be in wintertime.
You can find updates on the Whiteway on the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club’s Facebook page or on this tourism website.
An impressive 2.5 km (1.5 mile) trail that meanders along the edge of Lake Mephrémagog, a large freshwater glacial lake that borders town of Magog, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and Newport, Vermont, USA. Magog is a 90-minute drive from Montreal.
The trail, called “un sentier glacé” in French, features warming huts at either end, as well as skate rentals. The ice is kept smooth, making it easy for beginners, although it can be busy – “more like a town social than a skating rink,” writes Simona Rabinovitch for the Montreal Gazette.
The city of Winnipeg, in the prairie province of Manitoba, is known for its frigid temperatures; in fact, it gets teased terribly by the rest of Canada for it. Leave it to Winnipeg, though, to figure out how to make the best of the cold. Its famous Red River Mutual Trail, which enables ice skaters to travel the frozen Assiniboine and Red Rivers, holds a Guinness World record for being the longest naturally frozen ice skating trail in the world.
It stretches for 5 kilometers (3 miles) with multiple access points and warming huts along the way. You can rent skates in the Forks Market if needed. According to Canadian outdoor website The Great Trail, “The Zamboni that smoothes the ice is rumoured to be powered by leftover French fry grease!” More information about the trail here.
Located in Joliette, Quebec, this is the longest river skateway in North America, longer even than Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, at 9 kilometers (5.6 miles). The skateway has been around for more than 30 years and features a double track, making it easier to accommodate crowds. There is a walking trail along the edge, in case you get tired of skating. Access is free, dogs must be on leashes, and bring your own skates, since there is no place to rent them.
The Skateway is described as a “place where lovers of the outdoors, nature, sports, and winter activities come together.” For a really fun time, visit between February 3-12, when the “Festi-Glace,” or IceFest, is on. More information here.
A brand new addition to a city that knows how to get outside in extremely chilly weather, the IceWay is only in its second year. It stretches 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) through the forest of Victoria Park.
The idea for the IceWay originally came from landscape architect Matt Gibbs, who came up with it for his master’s thesis and won top prize in the COLDSCAPES International Urban Design competition. While Gibbs originally pictured it as a commuting trail, the city built it as a recreational one. More information here.
Called “the world’s largest skating rink,” the Rideau Canal Skateway is the most famous skating trail in Canada, and 2017 will mark its 47th season. The Rideau Canal runs through Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, and thanks to notoriously cold temperatures, it freezes solid in January and February.
The resulting Skateway, which stretches 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) from Dow’s Lake to downtown, connects much of the city and becomes a busy thoroughfare for commuters, from businesspeople to students. The ice must be 30 centimeters (1 foot) thick before it can open officially, which usually means early January.
For even more fun, visit during the Winterlude festival, which spans 3 weekends in February. Much of the festival takes place on the frozen canal.
credit: Tiffany Playfair (used with permission)
Located in MacGregor Point Provincial Park in Port Elgin, Ontario, this is a short 400-meter (quarter-mile) skating trail through quiet forest. Its real attraction is at nighttime, when lights turn on to illuminate the trail until 10 p.m. every night of the week. It’s perfect for families with young kids – not too busy and of manageable length, yet remote and magical.
The Park also has yurts for overnight stays, as well as plenty of other family-friendly winter activities, such as a large ice-skating rink and trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, that make it worth a visit. The Park is located 3 hours northwest of Toronto on the edge of Lake Huron. More info here.
In Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge clears a large oval-shaped skating trail each year on Lake Mildred. While the trail may not meander through forest, it features the magnificence of the snow-covered mountains that surround the glacial lake.
The oval trail is open to all, whether guests of the lodge or not. There are two large rectangular rinks cleared in the center of the oval for impromptu games of shinny. A bonfire and hot chocolate to warm up are often available on the ice. Info available here.
Shipyards is the name of a public park in Whitehorse, Yukon, in Canada’s northwest. It features a rollerblading and bicycle trail that’s converted into a skating loop through the park in wintertime. Warming huts on site — something you’ll certainly need in Canada’s far north! Remember that the days are very short, with less than 6 hours of daylight in January.
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This article was sourced from http://emptynestmagazine.com