For the classic city ice skating experience where hundreds of people might spend the afternoon careening along smooth, winding paths or warming themselves at burn barrels, try out Westchester Lagoon at the west end of the Chester Creek greenbelt off the L Street / Minnesota Drive corridor.
The lagoon is basically where Chester Creek impounds before flowing, out a narrow channel beneath the Alaska Railroad into Knik Arm. Once you get out on it, the 50-plus-acre lake feels surprisingly expansive, featuring a wooded hillside with a beaver lodge, the spectacle of passing trains and an unobstructed vista of the Chugach Mountain Front.
During the winter, the Anchorage Parks Department monitors ice thickness. Once the ice grows to at least 12 inches, the muni authorizes hop mopping and maintenance that keeps skating alive regardless of snowfall. A report gets updated at least once a week during winter season.
If you like skating and people watching, busy weekends are great fun and endlessly distracting at this venue, with some lighting drawing in skaters at night. Typically, the ice moppers create a quarter-mile long skate-way oval in and around the small islands midway along the lake’s northern shore. Several large courts might be cleared, too, where people glide or even play casual skirmishes of hockey. Very popular with families, and a wonderful place to savor community spirit during city-wide holidays.
Depending upon surface conditions, it’s sometimes possible to skate just about everywhere on the lake. Circumnavigating the shoreline offers more than one mile of uninterrupted skating. Skating wild ice has nothing on Westchester when the surface is smooth.
The parks people perform the same chore at four other city lakes and one skating oval. Once ice gets deep enough (typically mid-December) check out:
- Goose Lake. 3220 E Northern Lights Blvd & UAA Drive (access off north end of UAA Drive.)
- Cheney Lake. 2245 Baxter Rd, between DeBarr Road and Northern Lights Boulevard.
- Delong Lake. 6420 Jewel Lake Rd, between International Aiport Road and Raspberry Road.
- Jewell Lake. 4342 W. 88th Avenue or 4401 W. Dimond Blvd. Take Jewell Terrace off Dimond to 88th Avenue.
- Skating oval at Cuddy Family Midtown Park, next to the Loussac Library. 201 E. 40th Ave. Take 40th west from Denali Street between East 36th Avenue and Tudor Road. Or park at the Library and walk.