Alaska Ice Skating

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Ice Skating

Explore the wild ice of Pot­ter Marsh along the Seward High­way in South Anchor­age. After a hard freeze-up, the marsh morphs from bird-nest­ing habi­tat into an intrigu­ing maze, with miles of twisty routes lead­ing to unex­pect­ed rinks. Very pop­u­lar with families. 

Freeze-up turns this sev­en-mile long fresh-water fiord in Chugach State Park into a mul­ti-mode trav­el cor­ri­dor for ice skaters, hik­ers, skiers and bik­ers. Adven­ture skat­ing can be good before snow gets too deep, or after mid-win­ter thaws or wind rehabs the surface. 

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. 

A pre­mier pad­dling des­ti­na­tion in sum­mer, the eight-mile loop canoe trail through 14 lakes can be skat­ed after freeze-up and before sig­nif­i­cant snow­fall. Peo­ple often cruise the entire route in one long day, or skate out a few lakes and return. Be pre­pared to hike portages up to a half-mile between lakes. 71 miles north of Anchorage.

For an oth­er­world­ly encounter with a famous glac­i­er you can’t eas­i­ly approach or even glimpse dur­ing sum­mer, lead the fam­i­ly across frozen Portage Lake to a fan­tas­tic wall of jum­bled, blue ice. Once the lake sur­face has frozen sol­id, peo­ple flock across on foot, ice skates, skis and bikes. 50 miles from Anchorage.

Deep enough to sub­merge an 80-sto­ry build­ing, the lake was carved out over thou­sands of years of glacial advances. While Salmon make their way into the lake, you may not see them due to the immense deposits of glacial silt. The silt also pro­tects them from preda­tors such as birds and larg­er fish. How­ev­er, they even­tu­al­ly make their way to clear­er waters. Look for dense blue ice­bergs from Portage Glac­i­er blown to shore.

These frozen chan­nels wind for miles across the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge off the Glenn High­way in the mouth of the Matanus­ka and Knik riv­er val­leys, just 35 miles north of Anchor­age. Either trav­el the streams or explore exten­sive pond net­works on the flats.

Bear Lake is a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for cross coun­try ski­ing (both skate and clas­sic), ski­jor­ing, skat­ing, and snow­ma­chin­ing. Groomed entire­ly by vol­un­teers, the trail fol­lows along the perime­ter of the lake and amounts to rough­ly 5 miles.

Difficulty: Easy

Locat­ed north of Wasil­la about 45 min­utes on the west side of the Parks Hwy. Lakes are all con­nect­ed with trails, and make for a great day of canoe­ing. They can also be skied in the win­ter and camp­grounds are avail­able as well. This hike can only be done in win­ter or the lakes will not be frozen enough to walk on.

Referred to as The Big Dip­per” by locals, this is a mul­ti-pur­pose are­na that is open year-round. The Big Dip­per fea­tures an 85’ x 100’ indoor ice rink with spec­ta­tor seat­ing for 2,200 that offers youth and adult hock­ey, speed skat­ing, recre­ation­al skat­ing, and sheet rentals for pri­vate parties.

Named after Hez Hous­ton Ray, a can-do teacher who came to Fair­banks in 1952. His friends called him an irre­sistible force,” when advo­cat­ing for youth sports, and he was well-known for his unusu­al and con­cert­ed efforts to get any job done. One of his most com­plex — and famous — schemes involved the devel­op­ment of the Big Dip­per Ice Are­na that now resides at the Hez Ray Sports Complex.

In 1984 when the Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter was being built plans were includ­ed for Town Square. In the sum­mer it is a good spot to sit and take a break. In the win­ter, the trees are strung with christ­mas lights and an ice skat­ing rink is cre­at­ed at the cen­ter of the park.

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