Wild about Winter
I wish I had a river so long, I would teach my feet to fly ...
I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
-- Joni Mitchell
There's magic in a broad expanse of natural ice. It invites you to put on your skates and start exploring. You glide along effortlessly at superhuman speeds. Ice skating has to be the most efficient form of human transportation ever invented.

In northern Europe, especially Holland and Sweden, recreational lake and canal skating are national obsessions. But in the USA, hockey and figure skating are the obsessions. Everyone goes to the rink, and outdoor skating is a well-kept secret. This site is your introduction to the sport of Scandinavian-style cross-country ice skating in the United States and Canada.

Every winter, here in northern New England, ice forms on the small lakes and ponds in November or December. By January, the big lakes and most rivers are frozen too. The ice grows thicker and stronger through the winter, sometimes reaching a depth of three feet. Snowmobiles, ATVs and pickup trucks roar across the ice, and villages of ice fishing shacks appear overnight. Then, beginning in mid-March, the warm sunshine triggers the slow melting process that climaxes with "ice-out" in April.

If the ice is strong enough to support a fully-loaded dump truck, why don't more people skate outdoors? Because the ice is often buried under a blanket of snow. (The image behind this text is a photo of ice skate tracks in six inches of fresh snow.) But when a hard freeze comes in on the heels of a midwinter rain, the lakes and rivers are transformed into a skater's paradise. Sometimes the smooth ice only lasts a day or two, sometimes it lasts for weeks.

In these pages you'll find safety advice, equipment suggestions, and eyewitness reports from the best locations for natural ice. Try them yourself!

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