Is there any activity that is more quintessentially winter than ice skating? Whether it’s in a city centre or out with nature, it's a pastime that is perfect for all different kinds of people, from friends to families, even for those wanting to go alone on a solo skate. So if you’re thinking about incorporating a day on the ice into your next trip to a winter wonderland, here’s our selection of where to go ice skating around the world.
Lake Louise, Banff, Canada
In the summertime, the hamlet of Lake Louise in the Canadian national park of Banff is famous for its beautiful turquoise water, a direct product of the surrounding glaciers, and is circled by high peaks and the grand Fairmont Chateau. During the wintertime (from mid-December to mid-April) , the lake is transformed into what many see as one of the greatest ice skating lakes in the world. It’s an area brimming with atmosphere, from fires to ice bars, ice cravings, ice castles, and even horse sleigh rides. You can even skate Lake Louise at night. The lake is maintained daily with snow being cleared away, and while it is free to skate, there is the option of renting ice skates. If you’re ever headed to Banff in the winter, this is worth a visit.
Evergreen Lake, Colorado
With 8.5 acres of skating space, this is the largest Zamboni (a style of ice resurfacer) maintained outdoor ice rink in the whole of North America. As well as one enormous public skating rink that’s so large it rarely feels crowded even during busy weekends, Evergreen Lake also has 11 pond hockey rinks. Situated in the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, not far from the city of Denver, the rink offers both day and night skating, for leisurely laps and some ice hockey dribbling (if you’re that way inclined). It’s a rink that’s exposed to the elements, and can get very cold so if you feel like a full day’s worth of ice skating, it’s worth taking a break by the stone fireplace at the Evergreen break house. The Evergreen Lake is open from around Christmas until March, although this is largely dependent on the weather.
Kungsträdgården, Stockholm, Sweden
Free and open to all, this centrally located park in the downtown area has been a favourite ice skating spot for Stockholmers since 1884. The rink has been in its current state since 1962, and is known for it’s wonderful ambiance, with music playing throughout the day. Across the water from Gamla Stan, locals believe the best time to visit Kungsträdgården is when the sun is setting, as the lights are coming on. Open from 9 in the morning until 9 in the evenings on weekdays and 10 until 9 at weekends.
Rockefeller Centre, New York
A world famous ice rink, and for many is an essential activity for those visiting The Big Apple during the winter and more specifically, at Christmas time. It is believed the inspiration came from a skate salesman demonstrating his products in the frozen water of the building’s fountain during the Depression Era, which then led to the realisation that the Rockefeller’s sunken plaza (which had struggled to attract shoppers to entrance) was perfect for an ice skating rink. Known as ‘skating pond’, it first opened on Christmas Day 1936. Initially it was planned as a temporary attraction, but was soon made permanent due to overwhelming popularity. Now, alongside the Christmas Tree and Prometheus statue, the ice rink is now maybe even more well known than the Rockefeller Centre itself. Open from November until July, the rink offers a selection of different packages, all the way from skating lessons for children to VIP treatment.
The Rideau Canal – Ottawa, Canada
Each winter, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site transforms into the world’s largest ice skating rink. Winding its way 7.8km through downtown Ottawa, the Rideau Canal Skateway has ramps and facilities that make it accessible to all different types of skaters. First opened in 1970, with a team from the National Conversation of Canada clearing a small section of ice for the public to skate on. Soon after a 6m wide skate track was developed, and then expanded to 5km long, much to resident’s and tourist’s delight. It’s now a key attraction for those visiting Ottawa, and a key part of the city’s Winterlude celebrations. Opening times do of course depend on the weather, but the skating season typically runs from the start of the year into the early part of March.
A Grade 1 listed building and former seaside retreat for the Prince Regent in 1811 who then became King George IV nine years later, is now one of the biggest attractions the city of Brighton has to offer.
The Pavillion’s ice rink opens from the end of October all the way through to early January and allows skaters young and old to enjoy one of the most iconic sites in the south east of England. In the mood for a break? Stop off at the rinkside bar and kitchen and savour the surroundings with a mulled wine (when you’ve finished skating of course) and marshmallows. Now entirely powered by wind and solar energy, it’s also one of the greenest ice rinks around.
Vienna Ice World, Vienna, Austria
For many European capitals, it is seemingly tradition to transform their city square into an ice rink during the festive period. Not many however, do it like the city of Vienna. Located in the centre of their Christmas Market and LED illuminated by the Neo Gothic Rathaus (the city hall), the 8,300 m2 ice rink is set over two different levels. One of these is the Sky Rink, which includes a 120 meter long ramp. There’s also the option to explore Vienna’s city park by way of ice sake, with countless routes through the area. If you’re in Vienna over Christmas this is a must, although it is worth booking ahead as it is incredibly popular - 2000 ice skates on site.
A few things to remember when ice skating.
- Keep an eye on the ice you’re skating on. While it is usually the responsibility of those running the icey area to decide if it’s a safe space to skate, there are ways of checking it for yourself. As the weather gets warmer, the snow will start to melt, which in turn means the ice on lakes and rivers begin to thaw, the ice will start to get a little unpredictable and ice depth can no longer be used as a barometer for water depth. This obviously varies in different locations and bodies of water, but when looking for signs of what is known as ‘rotten ice’, the colour is a quick way of indicating how strong it is. If you see grey ice, it’s a sign that the ice is frozen, melted and then refrozen, which means it will be weakened. Clear blue is the strongest and means it is more often than not safe to stand and skate on. If it is opaque white (or simply the colour of snow) it is half the strength of blue ice, and is formed by wet snow freezing on the ice.
- Avoid ice when it gets dark. Unless it is in a controlled area such as an organised ice rink, it’s very difficult to spot holes in the ice, and has often been the reason for drownings.
- Never walk or skate on ice lakes alone. Should the worst happen, being with a partner means help can be called for. If you are confident enough to do it alone, let someone know where you’re going and what time you plan on finishing.
- Don’t drink while out on ice. Being drunk or on drugs seriously impairs your judgment and should you run into trouble, it also speeds up hypothermia. Being clean means being safe.