As a Canadian, I’m a firm believer that the best way to spend a cold winter day is by lacing up your skates and getting your heart pumping with a good ol’ game of shinny.
It’s been a tried-and-true pastime of mine for years, so last year when I had the opportunity to skate Lake Louise, there was no hesitation in grabbing my skates and heading out the door.
Although the goal of our drive from Banff to Lake Louise was a game of pick-up, as we drove and I took in stunning landscapes around every corner, I couldn’t help but think that sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Mountains towered over us with peaks zig-zagging high in the sky, the taller ones soaring upwards to the clouds. The recent snowfall blanketed the landscape, creating a breathtaking winter wonderland.
The best part of the drive for me was passing my favourite peak, Castle Mountain. Appropriately named, this behemoth structure radiates a fortress-like appearance. It’s entirely enormous and the minutes stretch on as you drive alongside it, truly reflecting its magnitude. Next to something so striking and impressive, it creates an almost grounding experience, accounting for my love of this mountain.
Getting closer to Lake Louise, we held our breath as we passed the overflow parking lot, hoping to find it empty. Used during peak season, drivers are shuttled back and forth to Lake Louise. If we found it full, we knew we’d be met with a very crowded rink. We let out a collective sigh of relief as we drove past without spotting a single vehicle.
Piling from the car, we redressed the layers shed during the drive. It was a crisp winter day with a chill in the air, so I had more layers on then I could count! Walking the short distance to the lake, I was shocked by how different everything looked during a new season, summer’s turquoise water, now smothered in winter white.
Lacing up on the benches lining the ice, we set off, the ice crunching beneath our skates. Two rinks stood side by side, one for hockey and the other for free skating, and we skated a few laps to warm up, carefully avoiding cracks and divots, along with other skaters.
A few circles around the rink and the condensation from my breath froze my eyelashes; as the ends of my hair began to freeze, and I tucked it into my hat, it wasn’t long before I couldn’t feel my toes.
Time to unlace! We wandered across the ice, reaching a frozen waterfall and watched as a climber attempted to ascend. Making our way up the base of the hill, only to slide back down on our stomachs, we realized you’re never too old for tobogganing … and who says you need a sled to make do?! My Canadian experiences have taught me to be versatile: no sled, no problem!
We turned back and quickly made our way back across the water, with the promise of a hot chocolate at the Fairmont keeping us moving. I tried a charcoal-infused whipped cream with mine, and it was delicious!
As we wrapped up the day and made our way back to the car, red-faced from a day in the cold, I turned back one last time to take everything in. One last deep breath of cold air pierced my lungs, and I admired my surroundings. Although I’ve spent many winters feeling fresh ice beneath my skates, I’ve never enjoyed a game of shinny like this.
Heat blasting and seat heaters set to high, we headed home. And if you’re wondering if the trip to Lake Louise worth it, just know I made it another three times!
Please note that Health Protocols currently advise against travelling outside your region to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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