One of the greatest things about living in Canada is the abundance of outdoor activities available in winter. Sure, it’s cold out there, but it’s also beautiful. From winding forest paths in Huntsville, to a rink atop Grouse Mountain in B.C., to a dazzling light show in the heart of Montreal, here are 11 of the most impressive skating spots in Canada.
1. Red River Mutual Trail, Winnipeg
Tune in to Scotiabank Hockey Day Feb 9Winding along the Assiniboine and Red rivers in Winnipeg, this trail was named the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 (the usual record holder, the Rideau Canal, didn’t freeze over as much as it normally does that year). While the Red River trail’s season is dependent on nature, it typically opens in January and closes in March. Stop for quick bite from one (or several!) of the food vendors set up along the trail, and if you get too chilly, duck into one of the trail’s warming huts for a quick boost before heading back out on the ice.
2. Bonsecours Basin, Montreal
Located in the Old Port of Montreal, the Bonsecours Basin outdoor rink is mechanically chilled, which allows it to be open for more than 100 days each year (there is a natural-ice rink beside it as well, but its run is weather-dependant). Nighttime is when this rink comes alive, with weekly musical theme nights, and a light show on Saturdays that bathes the rink in colour.
3. Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink, Saskatoon
Situated on the edge of the South Saskatchewan River and beside the castle-like Delta Bessborough Hotel, this rink overlooks the Meewasin Valley. A renovation in 2010 transformed the warm-up centre into a cozy chalet, complete with wood-burning fireplaces inside and a firepit outside. Among its claims to fame: It was voted “Canada’s Best Outdoor Skating Rink” by Reader’s Digest in 2006, and hockey greats Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe have laced up there.
4. Grouse Mountain Ice Skating Pond, Vancouver
Breathe in the crisp mountain air as you glide around this 8,000-square-foot pond located high up on Grouse Mountain. For the scenic route to the rink, hop on the Skyride, the largest aerial tram in North America. And if you want to check out the conditions on the moutaintop so that you know how to dress for the day, check out the live Chalet Cam.
5. Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta
There are quite a few rinks to choose from in Banff and Lake Louise, but two of the more spectacular ones are the Waldhaus Rink and Lake Louise itself. The Waldhaus Rink’s location in the picturesque Spray Meadow behind the historic (and reportedly haunted) Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is breathtaking, especially after a snowfall. Come winter, the turquoise water of glacier-fed Lake Louise transforms into a giant skating rink and plays host to the Ice Magic Festival every January.
6. The Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottawa
Every winter since the 1970s, the Rideau Canal transforms into a 7.8-km long skateway. A UNESCO world heritage site, and Guinness Book of World Record holder for largest natural skating rink, the Rideau winds through the heart of downtown Ottawa. One of the most popular annual events to take place on the canal is Winterlude, a joint venture between Ottawa and Gatinau, Que.
7. Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail, Huntsville, Ont.
Located in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country, Arrowhead Provincial Park’s skating trail is one of the most scenic in the country. Winding through the trees, you feel as though you are in a winter wonderland. Be sure to check out its Fire & Ice nights, where tiki torches line either side of the trail and two campfire rest stops are set up to warm your cold toes.
8. Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Time it right—when the lake is freshly frozen and it hasn’t yet snowed—and Great Slave Lake turns into one big skating rink. Every year in late March, to celebrate the end of the season, Yellowknife holds the Long John Jamboree on the ice of Yellowknife Bay (part of Great Slave Lake), where revellers enjoy one last hurrah before the spring melt.
9. Emera Oval, Halifax
Originally built as a temporary speed skating oval for the 2011 Canada Winter Games, the Emera Oval became so popular with locals that the city decided to make it a permanent fixture. The size of three NHL hockey rinks, it’s used for inline skating in the summer and ice skating in the winter. Check the Oval’s website for public skate times, special events and a live look at the rink thanks to its webcam.
10. Parc La Fontaine, Montreal
In the winter, the ponds and waterways of Parc La Fontaine in Montreal turn into long tree-lined skate paths. It also has two traditional skating rinks, where you can play hockey or, if you’re new to skating, hang onto the boards for balance as you go around. And, being located in the Plateau neighbourhood, it’s close to a fantastic restaurant scene, perfect for an aprés skate date!
11. The Whiteway, Columbia Valley, British Columbia
Named in 2014 as the world’s longest skating trail by the Guinness Book of World Records, the Whiteway was originally built in 2006 as a way to connect the communities located along the shores of Lake Windermere in B.C.’s Columbia Valley. It consists of almost 30 km of trails for both skating and cross-country skiing.