- Ice skating at Spruce Peak in Stowe
Vermonters adapt to changing weather with gusto. When winter hits, it's all about frigid fun, and ice skating is a classic cold-weather pastime. While many indoor ice arenas stay open throughout several seasons, outdoor ice skating is an ephemeral treat — especially during the postholiday, pre-thaw months of January and February.
From pop-up ice rinks to sports complexes to swaths of Lake Champlain, plenty of skating opportunities await, indoors and out — some closer than you may realize. Wondering whether your backyard pond is OK for skating? Stick to this old adage: Thick and blue, tried and true; thin and crispy, way too risky.
"My grandfather always told me that a team of horses can go across two inches of ice," said skating coach Jennifer Lupia, though current recommendations more than double that estimate. For tips about ice safety, visit vtfishandwildlife.com to be sure you're knowledgeable and prepared.
Whether you'd like to carve the ice at a solar-powered arena, a friendly neighborhood park or a miles-long loop on a lake, here are seven varied places to skate all over Vermont this winter. Check the websites or call in advance for dates, rates and conditions.
Calahan Park Community Rink
45 Locust St., Burlington
Some of the best spots for skating can be found right in neighborhood community parks, and they're almost always free. Within walking distance of many popular dining and shopping destinations in Burlington's South End, Calahan Park is home to one of the most beloved pop-up skating rinks in the Queen City. The park is also known for its sledding hill, so bring along the toboggan.
February 18-20, North Hero
Perhaps the biggest skating spot on Lake Champlain emerges in February, when snowfall is cleared for the Great Ice! festival in North Hero. The mostly free frozen fête happens right on the ice, with bonfires, dogsled racing, cross-country skiing, fireworks and, of course, ice skating. Zipping around on natural ice can be bumpy, so Great Ice! smooths out its skating plot with a professional ice resurfacer, ensuring a clean ride.
Lake Morey Resort
82 Clubhouse Rd., Fairlee, 800-423-1211
Once the midwinter freeze sets in, natural bodies of water such as Fairlee's Lake Morey should top any skater's list. The lake's 4.3-mile-long loop is a scenic gem, with natural beauty extending for miles around. It's one of the longest skate trails of its kind in the United States. It's free to skate, though donations are appreciated for access to the trailheads.
Skatium Outdoor Ice Skating Rink
40 Slow Rd., Waitsfield, 496-8845
Home to ski centers such as Mad River Glen and Sugarbush Resort, the Mad River Valley is synonymous with winter sports. The Skatium Outdoor Ice Skating Rink in Waitsfield is an open-air gem, with half the ice reserved for stick-and-puck and the other half for pleasure skating. On Tuesdays, it hosts potluck community dinners. Wednesdays are all about friendly pickup hockey matches.
100 Diamond Run Mall Pl., Rutland, 775-3100
Some like a leisurely spin around the ice, while others, such as members of the Green Mountain Speedskating Club, go for sheer velocity. Founded in the 1970s, the group calls Spartan Arena in Rutland home. Welcoming to newbies and seasoned skaters alike, the club is sanctioned by U.S. Speedskating of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and has launched members to competitive glory. Not a speed demon? Check Spartan's calendar for open skate dates.
7412 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 282-4625
Want to tag along to the mountain with your skier friends, even though you don't personally ski? Stowe's Spruce Peak has a little something for everyone. Among amenities such as fine dining and spa services, there's a large outdoor skating rink that's free and open to the public. Nestled in the resort's quaint central village, the rink offers gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains.
Union Arena Community Center
80 Amsden Way, Woodstock, 457-2500
Woodstock's Union Arena distinguishes itself from other local sports complexes as the only net-zero arena in the state. The massive, newly completed rooftop solar array drastically cut energy use, quelling any anxiety that skaters may have about the environmental impact of their recreational activities. Throughout the seven-month season, youth and adult hockey leagues take over the ice to compete in tournaments, and public skate hours vary throughout the week.