VIDEO: Ice skating on Lake Louise a cool alternative to snow sports

‘One of the best times to go … is at sunrise or sunset against the breathtaking mountain backdrop’

Hockey players make the most of the fading daylight as they skate on Lake Louise, Alta., Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Don’t ski? Snowshoeing leaves you cold? How about gliding on the jewel of the Canadian Rockies?

Whether it’s a bluebird day or weather like a shaken snow globe, skating on Lake Louise in Banff National Park is a Canadian postcard experience easily accessible from the visitor parking lot of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

With Victoria Glacier as a backdrop, hockey games spring up organically. Some people just skate around with a hockey stick in their hand for the fun feel of it.

A little lake shinny is irresistible to the world’s top skiers in late November and early December when World Cup downhill races are held across the valley at the ski resort.

In its 2016 list of the “world’s most dramatic water-walking spots,” CNN ranked Lake Louise No. 2 behind the Tower of London Ice Rink and ahead of the Eiffel Tower Ice Rink in Paris at No. 3.

If the surrounding peaks of Temple, White and Niblock weren’t picturesque enough, Lake Louise’s Ice Magic Festival ups the selfie stakes Jan. 17-27 when an ice-castle sculpture adorns the rink.

Weather dictates the length of the skating season at Lake Louise, but from roughly December to April the lake ice nearest the hotel is cleared of snow daily and lit for night skating.

“One of the best times to go skating is at sunrise or sunset against the breathtaking mountain backdrop of Lake Louise,” says Chateau senior manager of marketing James Fraser.

“An even better time to go is in the evening under the stars and moonlight.”

Bring your own skates, hockey sticks and helmets or rent a package. Skate rentals are $20-$30 for adults and $10-$20 for children. A hockey stick is $5. A helmet is complimentary with a full package rental of skating gear.

Be aware Louise’s ice is created by Mother Nature and not in the controlled environment of an hockey arena.

In the event of heavy snowfall, it can be difficult for plows to keep up and there may be rough patches and bumps underneath the snow.

Once the lake surface begins to freeze in the fall, the hotel’s grounds team regularly tests ice thickness.

“They use an ice auger to safely drill through the ice surface and have measuring tools and an ice tracking document to monitor and record the ice thickness at various spots around the lake,” Fraser says.

“The standard measurements are three inches of ice for a single person to walk on it, eleven inches of ice for it to support the machinery to build the ice rinks, and twenty inches of ice for it to support the ice castle that is built every winter, just before Christmas.”

It’s a skater’s bonanza when freezing temperatures provide the requisite ice thickness before the big snows arrive.

Those conditions open up more skating terrain on a lake that reflects the surrounding peaks like a mirror.

READ MORE: Calgary man narrowly escapes from avalanche while running at Lake Louise

“This is a rare occurrence, happening usually once every three or four years” Fraser says. “The conditions have to be just right, and Mother Nature needs to co-operate.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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