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Outdoors

The Coolest Natural Ice Skating Rinks Around the World

By Fiona Mokry
Read time: 5 minutes

There’s nothing quite like an outdoor skating rink in winter — the fresh, cold air and snow-covered scenery make natural ice rinks an obvious choice over often-crowded indoor ones. Whether you’re a serious skater or are simply looking for a day of family fun, check out six of the coolest natural skating rinks around the world.

Rideau Canal Skateway – Ottawa, Canada

Aerial view of frozen Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada
Photo credit: Guoqiang Xue/ Shutterstock

Recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink, Ottawa’s Rideau Canal Skateway covers the equivalent of 90 Olympic ice skating rinks. Each winter, the historic Rideau Canal — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is transformed into this public, free-to-use skate rink that winds its way through the Canadian capital city to Dow’s Lake. 

First opened in 1971, the striking skateway stretches 4.8 miles long and has a maintained area of over 1.7 million square feet. The frozen canal — open 24/7 from January through early March (weather dependent) — is a beloved local winter attraction that also brings in visitors from all around the world. Maintained by the National Capital Commission (NCC), it offers amenities such as bathrooms, food and drink vendors, night lights, music, and equipment rentals. 

Lake Louise – Banff National Park, Canada

Turquoise waters reflecting the Canadian Rockies on Lake Louise in Banff National Park
Photo credit: Ronnie Chua/ Shutterstock

While Lake Louise is renowned for its vivid turquoise waters for much of the year, during the colder months it transforms into one of Canada’s most spectacular natural ice rinks. Lake Louise’s pristine surroundings include Victoria Glacier and the Rocky Mountains, which create a breathtaking backdrop within Banff National Park

The rink is maintained by the nearby 5-star Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, where you can also rent skates. Cleared and resurfaced daily, the rink is open to the public and is illuminated until 11 p.m. nightly. A dedicated hockey rink occupies one section of the lake, while another corner is fixed with a fairytale-esque ice castle crafted from huge blocks of ice by the hotel staff. The 200-plus-acre lake is open for skating from December to April (weather dependent) and is a sought-after activity for anyone visiting Banff National Park in the winter. 

Lake Vänern – Sweden

Red and white striped lighthouse on coast of Sweden's Lake Vänern
Photo credit: Lasse Johansson/ Shutterstock

Skating is a sport many Swedes are passionate about, and come winter, many locals will sling a pair of skates over their shoulders and set off to find a naturally made ice rink to glide across. And as Sweden’s biggest body of water and the third-largest lake in Europe, Lake Vänern is a prime spot for a winter skate. This massive lake — which stretches 90 miles long through three provinces (Vastergotland, Dalsland, and Varnland) — attracts both casual ice goers and long-distance skaters eager to clock some serious mileage. Unlike some of the other ice rinks of this list, Lake Vänern isn’t groomed or maintained, but its rugged beauty makes it all the more lovely. 

Lac de Joux – Switzerland

Ice crystals forming on Lac de Joux in Switzerland
Photo credit: Philippe Emery/ Alamy Stock Photo

Located in the stunning Jura Mountains of western Switzerland, Lac de Joux covers over 3.5 square miles — making it the country’s largest lake at an elevation above 1,000 meters. The lake’s lofty elevation along the mountainous border with France in the Valle de Joux yields spectacular scenery, plus access to charming lakeside hamlets such as Le Séchey, Le Pont, and La Lieu. 

In winter, the lake’s free, maintained ice rink is a popular family-friendly attraction, with vendors setting up along the side of the rink to sell hot drinks and mulled wine. There are multiple access points to the lake, but the train station in Le Pont is the most popular jumping off point. (You can also rent skates here). Vallee de Joux offers other winter activities such as cross country and downhill skiing.

Evergreen Lake – Colorado

Lookout over Evergreen Lake in Colorado
Photo credit: Marlin Cox/ Shutterstock

A 30-minute drive west of Denver, Evergreen Lake offers a tranquil retreat from the buzz of Colorado’s capital. Like many outdoor attractions in the state, the body of water is framed by the majestic, snow-capped Rocky Mountains. Boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddle-boarding are popular activities here in the summer, but once the water freezes over, the city transforms the lake into a hub of winter activity. 

The frozen 55-acre lake is divided into a main rink and a series of “mini-rinks,” including a practice rink for beginners and a private rink that can be rented out for parties and events. In addition to ice skating, ice hockey and broomball matches are also organized, as are skating lessons. The ice is open to the public from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekends. 

Lake Weissensee – Austria

Ice rink on frozen Lake Weissensee in Austria
Photo credit: Christopher Moswitzer/ Shutterstock

Come winter, Lake Weissensee transforms into Europe’s largest natural groomed skating rink, covering 2.5 square miles. Confined by a sea of evergreen trees and the rolling hills of Carinthia, with the Gailtal Alps looming in the background, the elongated glacial lake is a year-round destination for sports and nature activities. In winter, the outdoor rink is frequented by recreational skaters as well as professionals who come to train for speed-skating competitions. 

Lake Weissensee’s Natural Ice Skating School offers lessons for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skaters. There are also sectioned-off areas for ice golf, ice hockey, and ice-stock (a sport similar to curling). Even non-skaters can enjoy their time here with a horse-drawn carriage ride across the ice. 

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