Outdoor Ice Skating
There are several places to skate in Banff, from our stunning recreation centre, Ice skate rentals are available in town., to natural outdoor rinks, all with uniquely spectacular vistas.
- Lake Louise behind the Chateau Lake Louise.
- Other natural outdoor ice surfaces include 40 Mile Creek to Vermilion Lakes, Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. Read the safety information below and ensure you are well informed and that the surface is safe prior to skating on natural surfaces.
Avoid Hazards, Skate Safely
Ice of natural bodies of water can be very enjoyable or very dangerous. Take responsibility for your safety and the safety of your family and friends by being informed, being cautious and being prepared.
Parks Canada does NOT monitor natural ice surfaces for safety or mark potential hazards in Banff National Park.
Frozen surfaces over moving water such as the Bow River are not considered safe places to skate. There are famous hot springs in the Town of Banff area, which can prevent ice on local bodies of water from freezing enough to support people.
Many environmental factors affect the thickness of the ice. If you choose to skate on natural ice, you do so at your own risk.
Parks Canada recommends:
- Contacting a Parks Canada visitor centre for more information on ice skating.
- Checking the cracks in the ice or drill a hole to help determine the depth of the ice: minimum of 15 cm thick for walking or skating alone and 20 cm for skating parties or games
- Wearing PFDs while skating if you are uncertain about ice thickness.
- Carrying some rope to help reach someone, and ice picks to help pull yourself out.
- Calling 911 or 403-762-4506 in case of EMERGENCY.
Many factors affect ice thickness, including type of water, location, the time of year and other environmental factors such as:
- water depth and size of body of water
- currents and other moving water
- chemicals including salt
- fluctuations in water levels
- logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun
- changing air temperature
Ice thickness should be:
- 15 cm for walking or skating alone.
- 20 cm for skating parties or games.
Spring Ice is Rotten Ice
Keep an eye out for thin ice as the weather gets warmer! The snow will melt and the ice on our lakes and rivers are beginning to thaw. As ice melts, it undergoes a process known as candling which weakens the ice along vertical channels. Ice depth can no longer be used to determine if the ice is safe.
Ice freezes to different depths in different locations in a body of water, and a combination of freeze thaw cycles in spring and early winter will make ice weaker.
When looking for signs of "rotten ice," look out for grey ice. This could be one of many signs that the ice has frozen, melted, then refrozen, weakening the ice. The colour of ice may be an indication of its strength.
- Clear blue ice is strongest.
- White opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. Opaque ice is formed by wet snow freezing on the ice.
- Grey ice is unsafe. The grayness indicates the presence of water.
Avoid traveling on ice at night
At night it is very difficult to see open holes in the ice. This is a frequent cause of drownings.
Never go onto ice alone
A buddy may be able to rescue you or go for help if you get into difficulty. Before you leave shore, tell someone where you are going and expected time of return.
Alcohol and drugs impairs your judgment and speeds up the development of hypothermia.