Saturday, November 15, 2014

November is my Favourite Month to Visit Banff (for real!)

I love the month of November because of two magical words:  Skating Season!

Skating on Johnson Lake, Banff

I use the term "skating season" to refer to the very short window of time when some of the lakes around the town of Banff have frozen without becoming snow covered yet.  When the conditions align just right, it is absolutely magical to visit Banff for early November skating.

Skating to the end of Johnson Lake

The challenge is timing your visit to Banff just right!  One year we were skating on Johnson Lake (our preferred lake for November skating) on November 11th and the ice was coke bottle green with not a speck of snow.  The next year, the lake wasn't even close to frozen yet by mid November.  Last year, barely frozen!  I think we were the only crazies to go on the ice at all that season at Johnson Lake.

Perfect skating on Johnson Lake, 2011
Skating on Cascade Pond, 2012
Back to Johnson Lake in 2013 (and this is as far out as we skated)
Johnson Lake 2014 - made it to the back of the lake

This year, the ice was well frozen on Johnson Lake when we went out today but it also had snow on it.  Nothing like the perfect skating day we had in 2011!  However, some awesome guys had gone ahead of us and plowed out a path to the end of the lake complete with oval at the end!  It was a beautiful skate and we had so much fun today!!

Skating on the oval at the back of Johnson Lake
Have you ever made a snow angel in the middle of Johnson Lake?  I have!!
First Side Plank in Ice Skates
Skating at the back of Johnson Lake with Cascade Mt. in the background

We had a fabulous day skating today on Johnson Lake and it was one of my top ten favourite days so far of 2014!  I love "wild and natural" skating on lakes that have not been professionally groomed or maintained, that don't have staff people checking the conditions daily, and where there's a sense of risk.  We always try to be careful but still, there's risk involved in outdoor skating on lakes and ponds.  And I love it!

Ice Crystals on Johnson Lake
Sometimes if you want to skate, you have to do a bit of shoveling first
The ice was bumpy and rough at the beginning but got better the further we went
Always bring a hockey stick in case you have to pull somebody out of the lake
Beautiful day to be skating in Banff!

For more information on skating in Banff, and for ice safety tips visit the Town of Banff website website.  There is a lot of information on their site about safety, knowing when to venture on ice and choosing a lake to skate on in the park.  And if this wild and natural skating isn't for you, don't worry because the town maintained rinks and ponds will all be open soon.  (Which is a much safer way to enjoy ice skating in Banff.)

You don't need to be an expert skater to get outside and try skating
Toboggans and sleds are great for pulling kids around on the ice
My favourite little skating buddy
Pulling novice skaters with a hockey stick works really well!

Want to try skating on Johnson Lake?  Go now!  As in tomorrow or over the next couple of days.  It's supposed to snow again in Banff soon and then the clear ice will be covered again.  You'll have to bring shovels and clear a patch of ice to skate on again. There's a very short window for "skating season" in Banff.  Myself, I'm heading back out in a couple days for one more go at it.

Skating over Ice Crystals on Johnson Lake


  1. What a thrilling description of ice skating on Johnson Lake--thanks for sharing it with us! Your photos are, as always, spectacularly beautiful. Your uses of the hockey stick are ingenious. I appreciated your creative balance of risk and excitement.

  2. Your published blog post is awesome and the photographs are captivating for me. After seeing these photographs I plan to go to the canadian tour with my family to enjoy real happiness of winter. We will enjoy skating, skiing and snow tubing. I love skating and now I am very excited to go there.