Pushing from my left foot to my right, I feel my sharp blades etch a fine line into the marble-hard translucent surface. Peering through the glass ceiling at my feet, I’m mesmerized by streams of tiny bubbles suspended in the ice like gossamer clouds. Every few strides, I pass over a sealed crack that slices the ice like a lightning bolt. Closer to shore, perfectly shaped spheres float like milky-white jellyfish, while in a flash tiny fish dart by just beneath the ice.
Freezing Temperatures Create Enchanted Surfaces
For true ice-skating devotees, the real treasure is found when lakes and ponds freeze into glass-smooth skating wonderlands. From Fort McMurray’s Snye River, Cochrane’s Mitford Pond or Policeman’s Creek in Canmore, to the Bow River in Banff, Jasper’s Mildred Lake and Abraham Lake near Nordegg, you’ll find skaters cruising frozen waterways as if exploring an exotic fantasy land.
Perhaps Alberta’s most famed natural rink is Lake Louise, where it feels magical to skate with the Victoria Glacier reaching toward you from the far end of the lake and the grand Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise behind you. For an extra sprinkle of fairy dust, try it at sunrise or sunset.
Family Friendly Fun
In cities and towns across Alberta, year-round modern arenas welcome athletic figure skaters and fast-action hockey players to pursue their passion on temperature-controlled rinks. For instance the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary – the fastest ice in the world – where Olympic speed skaters train and race and amateurs like me can glide on the same icy track.
But come winter, excitement levels rise as communities send out ice resurfacing machines – better known as Zambonis – to smooth local rinks into prized outdoor skating venues. The Olympic Plaza right across from city hall in downtown Calgary is a whole heap of free fun, and usually open from early December until mid-March. Otherwise, Calgary’s city outdoor rinks are weather dependent and typically open mid-December through February.
In Edmonton, outdoor ice-skating rinks are found at William Hawrelak Park and Rundle Park. Sir Winston Churchill Square at city hall, speed skating at Victoria Park Oval at the west end of River Road and the Alberta Legislature’s south grounds are other options. If you take it indoors, our favourite rink is the year-round Ice Palace at West Edmonton Mall.
Wherever you find yourself in the province this winter, chances are there’s a local spot just waiting for you to lace up and experience your own magical whirl on ice.