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Skating and the search for “real” ice

By Anna Fader

The appearance of outdoor ice rinks in unlikely urban settings is a winter trend that brings holiday delight to city-dwelling families. Rockefeller Center is one of the country’s most well known seasonal rinks, and even sunny, surfy LA has nearly a dozen holiday ice rinks melting in the California sunshine (perhaps a setting for some future SNL episode of “The Californians”).

These arctic anomalies are a big treat, but if your family has only ever put blade to ice at a public skating rink, then you owe it to yourselves to pack the winter gear and drive until you find real ice, because skating on a pond (with a hot cocoa chaser) is an experience every kid—and adult—should have. Air travel planned around weather can get stressful, but when the mercury drops down low, piling the family into the Equinox with everyone’s skates and thermoses could lead to a wonderful weekend at one of these winter wonderlands:

The Berkshires, Massachusetts
There’s something about New England and the Berkshires—particularly when they get all dreamlike on account of that frosting. Western Massachusetts is one of the more accessible corners of New England, offering a way-off-the-beaten-path ambiance within easy reach of the Turnpike. Explore the many parks and ponds yourself, or start off easy at Canterbury Farms, a bed and breakfast that offers its own pond, with skate rentals and a resident skating pro.

Squam Lake, New Hampshire
Once the car is loaded and you’re enjoying the view, why not venture deeper into New England? Squam Lake spans nine miles in every direction, with islands and coves surrounded by mountains, and the lake’s website lets you monitor the weather until conditions are right.

Lake Morey, Vermont
If you like the journey to continue after you get out of the car, consider a drive up to Vermont’s Lake Morey, home to the longest groomed skating trail in the United States. Pick your weekend carefully and you could take part in anything from a skate-a-thon to a culinary skating tour of area restaurants. If that sounds like more skating than you’ve done in a while, feel free to kick back afterward at the Lake Morey Resort.

Lake Placid, New York
OK, this one isn’t a pond, but winter sports fans will find it a real thrill to skate on the site of so much sporting history. The giant outdoor Lake Placid Oval is where Eric Heiden scored his five gold medals in speed skating and the US scored its big win over the USSR back in 1980. Wintery winds bite skaters’ cheeks here, but without any fear of the ice growing thin or giving way.

Centennial Lakes Park, Minnesota
Anyone who can read a license plate can tell you that Minnesota has 10,000 lakes, and, northern temperatures being what they are, that makes for a lot of al fresco ice rinks come winter. The trick is knowing how to choose between so many. Minnesotans recommend trying a lake with the word “shallow” in the name. Or you could play it safe by visiting Centennial Lakes Park in Edina, which offers 10 acres of groomed lake surface, and Norwegian ice sleds to boot.

Keystone Lake, Colorado
Colorado’s Keystone Lake is big enough and freezes hard enough to support a Zamboni—making the lake officially the largest ice rink in North America. The ice is dependably safe to skate on by Thanksgiving each year, which presents an attractive alternative to driving to the mall on Black Friday.

To find other natural settings where you can get your Hans Brinker on, do a search using the term “Nordic Skating” with the region you’d like to explore; enthusiasts of traditional skating maintain oodles of websites sharing information about ice quality. And remember: never trust ice that hasn’t been checked by someone who knows better; never skate alone and don’t forget to bring hot cocoa!

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

This is the second in a series of ice skating stories on Chevy Culture.

Anna Fader is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Mommy Poppins, the ultimate insider city guide and family travel blog for families in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut.

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