Skating on the ice at Lake Louise in Alberta
Skating on the ice at Lake Louise in Alberta
On our first morning in Banff National Park, Bob and I had planned to go cross-country skiing, but with the sun shining brightly, we headed up instead to checkout the skating surface on Lake Louise. We were pleasantly surprised to find not one but two ice rinks, with one reserved for ice hockey, and the other set off by a glistening castle fashioned out of blocks of ice for ice skating.
Although the Ice Castle was a good size with impressive dimensions, it was dwarfed by the massive mountains encircling Lake Louise. It had been constructed in the center of the ice skating rink that was reserved for pleasure skaters.
Being first thing in the morning, only a few people were on the ice surface, curiosity seekers drawn to the whimsical ice castle for a closer look. The maintenance crew for the ice skating rink was hard at work clearing the ice of the overnight snowfall.
The frozen creation was complete with ornate details carved into the ice, and with hazy sunshine illuminating the transparent structure, a delicate shade of aquamarine blue reflected from the depths of the solidified water. A perfectly round globe of ice topped each newel post, and shimmering within each globular crystal ball was a delicate white lily, silk of course.
This is a view of Chateau Lake Louise where it sits at the shore of Lake Louise. We snapped this photo from Fairview Lookout overlooking the lake and historic chateau, a lookout reached by taking a short snowshoe hike up a fairly steep slope.
Bob and I dropped in on the skating rink several times while we stayed in the area and never tired of the intimate atmosphere there created by the protective embrace of the mountains surrounding the iconic lake. The landscape was buried beneath the most snow that Banff has seen in early January when compared to recent decades, and yet, we managed to score several sunny days in a row. Still, drifting snow whipped from the surrounding slopes and forests served to obscure the sun at regular intervals.
The builders of the ice castle did not miss a beat. Complete with battlements on top of the castle walls, the structure seemed to mirror the nearby mountain peaks.
Small windows and arched doorways helped achieve the image of a fortress prepared for defensive action. The castle made for a whimsical backdrop to the skaters circling the ice skating rink in the shadow of the equally formidable Chateau Lake Louise.
As Bob circled the ice rink, he noticed on the mountainside at the far shore of the lake a frozen wall of ice amidst the coniferous trees. We snapped a few photographs, but it wasn’t until later, when viewing the pictures on our computer, that we realized an ice climber was engaged in surmounting the frozen cascade.
Closer at hand, on the shore of the lake in front of Chateau Lake Louise, provision has been made for skaters to rest and warm up by a fire pit that is maintained throughout the day and into the evening. One day, Bob and I found ourselves huddled around the glowing embers and sharing the ice with a group of international students that had been brought to Lake Louise to enjoy the quintessential Canadian experience.
Bob and I engaged in conversation with one Chateau employee in charge of tending the fire pit, and we learned from him that the ice rink at Lake Louise has been voted by some as the most beautiful outdoor ice skating rink in the world.
Set amongst the pristine beauty of the small glacial lake, thick evergreen forests and towering peaks, it certainly is in a most scenic location, we would have to agree.
Bob and I were lucky when we visited Alberta because a milding trend had temperatures much more bearable than the previous month’s -40 Celsius (-40 F) regular daytime highs. Each day while we were there, at one point or another, snow fell adding to the massive accumulations, but it did not hamper our ability to enjoy all the winter activities available to us.
It was exhilarating bombing around the huge ice surface within sight of the snow-covered mountains and with Chateau Lake Louise just a stone’s throw away.
The quality of the ice was very good, thanks in part to a young man who hails from Whitby, Ontario; he was in charge of making the ice and helping to maintain it. The mild temperatures did have the outer edges of the rink becoming a little soft and slushy, but there was no need to skate around the fringe because the ice rink was so large.
It has only been in recent years that I have come to enjoy skating as much as I do, and that is because my sister and I dared to take skating lessons as middle-aged adults. I still lack the ability to stop myself when zipping around the ice, but I love nothing more than gliding across a smooth surface with the wind whistling in my ears.
After spending a morning skating endless circles around the rink, it was time for Bob and me to warm ourselves by the roaring fire. While basking in the glow of the flames, we made plans to snowshoe up the mountain behind us on another day.
I had dreamed for years of skating on Lake Louise but had only ever visited the Rocky Mountains during the summer months. When Bob suggested a trip west to visit his sister and her husband, I looked forward to seeing the rugged landscape under the depths of snow that only can be seen in that mountainous region. I was thrilled to encounter winter in the Rockies and felt fulfilled at having been able to spin around the ice rink on Lake Louise. It made for a unique Canadian experience.
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