Ice skating is thought to have originated more than 2000 years ago, in Scandinavia, to transport goods. Throughout the 18th century, particularly in Britain and France, ice skating became popular as a social and recreational hobby. Introduced to Canada in the 1840s, the country became a leader in skating rink development, with the first outdoor, commercial rink built in Montreal by 1850. Perhaps the most prominent early development was the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal. Built in 1862, it was the largest of its kind at the time, and the size in which most professional ice hockey leagues still use today. 

Synonymous with the winter months, ice skating has become a popular pastime for all ages and skill levels. From frozen lakes, ponds, rivers, and trails to standard covered rinks, it has also become a fundamental aspect for competitive sports such as ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, and more. Whether you are looking for a leisurely spin or a competitive practice experience, there are picturesque outdoor ice skating rinks across Canada. So, grab your skates and add one or more of these magnificent frozen playgrounds to your winter bucket list.

Skate Alongside the Historic Palais Montcalm at Place d’Youville – Quebec City, QC

Located outside of Quebec City’s old upper town and the historic Palais Montcalm, an art-deco theater, is Place D’Youville. This skating rink is perfect for both beginners and those who are more advanced. Despite your skill level, all visitors will experience a beautiful backdrop of historic architecture to go along with a smooth sheet of ice. Thanks to its underground refrigeration system, this outdoor ice skating rink is not only kept in excellent condition, but is also able to open in mid-November, earlier than most other rinks of its kind.

Free reservations are currently required for those looking to skate at Place D’Youville for the 2020 – 2021 season. Weekends are extremely popular here, so be sure to book in advance. 

Glide Along Rideau Canal Skateway, One of the World’s Largest Rinks – Ottawa, ON

The Rideau Canal is just over 200 kilometers long, connecting Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, with Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. It is the oldest canal system still in use across North America and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007

Locals and Visitors to Ottawa have the unique opportunity to skate along the Canal during the winter months if weather conditions permit. Operating for over 50 years, the Rideau Canal Skateway is divided into 13 sections, covering 7.8 kilometers. From downtown Ottawa, the skateway winds its way to Dow Lake, making it one of the world’s largest ice rinks. Ideal for those of all skill levels, the rink is usually only safely operable once there is 30CM of ice. This means its opening date does not usually happen until mid-December or later. Since the skateway is not supported by an underground refrigeration system, it is important to check on local weather conditions and rink status before arrival.

Experience Fire & Ice Nights at the Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail – Huntsville, ON

Huntsville is the largest town in the Muskoka Region, located 215 kilometers north of the big city of Toronto, it provides a peaceful getaway from the urban hustle and bustle. With its beaches, private campsites, and motor-boat free lakes, Arrowhead Provincial Park is a must-visit during spring and summer. During the winter months, this park is home to the Arrowhead Ice Skating Trail, a 1.3‑kilometer journey through beautiful Muskoka forest.

On select nights throughout the season, organizers host Fire & Ice Nights, where visitors can experience skating the trail after dark, lined and lit by hundreds of tiki torches. Though the trail is suitable for those of all skill levels, guests can choose to walk the ice instead.

Lace-Up for an Adventure Along the Record-Breaking Red River Mutual Trail – Winnipeg, MB 

Once the Assiniboine and Red Rivers freeze, the Red River Mutual Trail is open to the public. Located in the heart of Winnipeg, this trail once broke a Guinness World Record for the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world. Though its length is dependent on weather conditions, visitors are always guaranteed at least a couple of kilometers of skating trail. It has frozen up to 10 kilometers in recent years. 

The Red River Mutual Trail goes above and beyond standard ice skating trails. It features unique art installations and even warming huts to help skaters stay toasty on longer journeys. Get competitive and participate in a game of hockey or even a curling match. Get hungry along the way? Food vendors often line either side of the trail to satisfy your hunger and keep you going.

Skate Amongst Snowy Peaks and Glaciers at Lake Louise – Lake Louise, AB

One of the most unique skating experiences in Canada can be found in Lake Louise, Alberta. As you glide along Lake Louise, you may be left temporarily speechless thanks to both the natural beauty and incredible size of the surrounding Canadian Rocky Mountains. The ice is open to those who want to leisurely skate, join a game of pick-up hockey, or even practice their figure-skating technique. Prefer to walk? You can do that too. When you are ready to take a break, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and warm-up by a nearby bonfire before continuing your Lake Louise skating experience. As if the natural scenery wasn’t beautiful enough, artists carve ice castles from large blocks of ice. It probably goes without saying that you’ll want to take lots of photos here. 

The rink at Lake Louise is also well lit for nighttime skating. It is usually less crowded and offers similarly stunning views under clear skies. Depending on weather conditions, the skating rink is open between mid-December and mid-April. Don’t have skates or couldn’t pack them? Skate rentals are available so that you can still enjoy all that a skating experience at Lake Louise has to offer. 

Enjoy a One-of-a-Kind Mountain-Top Skating experience at Grouse Mountain – North Vancouver, B.C.

Ever wondered what it was like to skate on an ice rink atop a mountain? Wonder no more. For locals or visitors to the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley areas of British Columbia, Grouse Mountain offers up a skating rink like no other. It is home to an 8000 square-foot ice skating pond. It is the only mountaintop outdoor skating experience in the lower mainland. Experience this one-of-a-kind rink while taking in the fresh mountain air. 

Skating at Grouse Mountain is complimentary for those with a Mountain Admission ticket or an Annual Local’s Pass. Skate rentals are also offered here. Since this rink is located atop a mountain, conditions can change frequently, be sure to check the latest status update before heading out.

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