By Blythe Copeland, TreeHugger
Imagine the sun on your face, the crisp air all around you, and the smell of fresh ice — and now imagine gliding along on skates without being forced to go around and around in a tiny oval rink. Instead, you can experience the great outdoors on one of these naturally frozen skating spots: Just you, the ice, and your skates.
The spots we’ve chosen here let you skate from the middle of cities to secluded rural spaces — and even in your own backyard. These are professionally maintained, and while you may find a frozen lake, pond, or river in your local park, you should always check with officials and take proper safety precautions before setting out.
Ice Skating on Natural Ice in Sweden
credit: Anna Moore/Nature Travels
UK-based Nature Travels sets up environmentally responsible tours of Sweden in summer and winter — and if you choose the colder months of the year, you could book this four-day, three-night tour of natural ice skating in Östergötland and Södermanland.
Professional guides make sure you’re on the strongest ice at all times, and customize the distances for your activity level; the company hints that you might also get the chance to go out at night for a “moonlight skating tour beneath the stars.”
Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottawa, Canada
credit: Vince Alongi
The Rideau Canal runs through the center of downtown Ottawa, and, in winter, the running water solidifies into the world’s largest ice skating rink — the Rideau Canal Skateway.
At 7.8 km long, the Skateway offers a scenic view of landmarks from city buildings to peaceful lakes, and is home to Winterlude, an annual festival of arts, sporting events, and food tastings.
Assiniboine Credit Union River Trail, Winnipeg, Canada
The Rideau Canal may be the world’s largest natural rink, but the Assiniboine Credit Union River Trail recently claimed the Guinness World record for longest at a maximum length of 8.5 km.
Along with skating, the trail makes room for plenty of other winter sports, from curling and hockey to broomball and walking.
Keystone Lake, Colorado
Colorado is better known for its skiing than its skating, but the 5-acre Keystone Lake gives visitors who aren’t so comfortable on the slopes a less-steep sporting option.
The ice is kept clean and smooth via Zamboni — making it the biggest natural rink in North America that uses the machine — and offers gorgeous mountain views (plus plenty of room for hockey games) surrounded by the shops and businesses of Keystone Village.
Mirror Lake, New York
Lake Placid boasts that it’s home to the country’s “first winter resort” — the Lake Placid Club, which kept its doors open full-time through 1905 — and it has also played host to two Winter Olympics.
When Mirror Lake freezes in the winter, visitors turn the town beach into a prime location for skating and hockey. The Lake Placid Toboggan Chute also lets out onto the lake, where thrill-seekers can slide as far as 1,000 feet.
Lake Morey, Vermont
Lake Morey, right on the edge of Vermont, is a 536-acre spot surrounded by spaces dedicated to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more.
But when temperatures drop and the lake freezes, staff at the Lake Morey resort also sets aside part of the ice to create a 4.5 mile trail — leaving space for free skating, and sports, too.
Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana
Montana’s Canyon Ferry Lake is a 28-mile favorite of natural ice skating fans, according to NordicSkating.org, because you’ll rarely have to deal with snow: Since the area doesn’t get much rough weather, the lake becomes a smooth sheet of black ice.
Canyon Ferry Lake is a man-made reservoir near Helena that measures up at more than 35,000 acres and it’s also a popular spot for iceboating, in which riders sit on low benches spanning steel runners and powered by a kitesail.
Westchester Lagoon, Alaska
credit: Alaskan Dude
It seems like there would be no shortage of ice in Anchorage, Alaska, but one of the most popular places for outdoor skating is on the frozen Westchester Lagoon.
The icy surface is hot mopped every day to keep it smooth, and the thickness of the ice is tested regularly — last week, it measured at more than 17 inches. Getting cold? Take a break from skating at one of the warming barrels that line the path.
In Your Own Backyard
Can’t get away to experience one of these frozen spots this year? You can make your own natural ice rink at home with just a few supplies — wooden stakes for marking the corners, a string for making sure your ice is level, a hose for laying down thin, even sheets of ice — and plenty of cold weather.
Some instructions call for a plastic tarp baselayer, but Planet Green tells you how to do it by using snow to create the finished shape.
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