Calgary

Wild skating season gets underway in Banff National Park

It's a small window, and it requires a prolonged cold snap with no snowfall. But when it all comes together, it's an outdoor winter activity like no other, says photographer and wild skater Paul Zizka.

'It's just mesmerizing. It makes me feel like a five-year-old again,' says Paul Zizka

Photographer Paul Zizka dreamed about being able to snap a wild skating photo like this for years. Finally, on Nov. 1, he managed to capture it on film at Lake Louise. (Paul Zizka)

'Tis the season for wild skating, i.e. skating on frozen lakes.

But the season is short, and the conditions have to be perfect.

The small window of opportunity stays open only so long as there's a prolonged cold snap with no snowfall. But when it all comes together, you get an outdoor winter activity like no other, says photographer and wild skater Paul Zizka.

"It's just that incredible feeling of just sort of zooming past the scenery, and it's effortless," he told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"Seeing the mountains, the skyline reflected around you, and sometimes seeing the bottom of the lake and the colour of the lake beneath your feet, and seeing the odd fish or stump or something — it's just mesmerizing. It makes me feel like a five-year-old again."

There are plenty of lakes to pick from west of Calgary, especially in Banff National Park.

Many of the more accessible ones, like Lake Louise, Vermillion Lakes and Lake Minnewanka, have seen a fair bit of traffic already this year, Zizka said.

But recently, he's also spotted a few more adventurous folk on the hunt for pristine, unscathed surfaces. 

"More and more, you see people putting in the work, even heading into the backcountry with the skates on their pack and trying to skate some lakes that have barely ever been skated before," he said.

Regardless of where you decide to glide, take the necessary precautions and measure the ice thickness, which can vary across the lake's surface, Zizka advised.

You may also opt to bring safety gear, like life-jackets, ropes and hooks, in case you break through the ice.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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