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Alberta Mountain Skating: the boom and bust of ‘Wild Ice’

Thousands of ice skaters were using a Facebook page for conditions, but Bow Valley Wild Ice has been shut down. So, what happened?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the boom of mountain lake ice skating in the Rocky Mountains of Canada; specifically in the Bow Valley of Alberta. The story was centred around a Facebook page called Bow Valley Wild Ice, which was gaining hundreds of followers each day.

The admins of Bow Valley Wild Ice have recently archived the page, which means no new posts or comments can be made. So, what happened?

Well, mountain lake ice skating boomed, and thousands of people were heading to remote frozen ponds to skate with their families, play hockey and to take photos.

Photographer Paul Zizka, one of the admins to the Facebook page, shared a number of stunning images of skaters this season. One of his photos made its way to the NHL, which likely inspired many to venture to the wild ice of the Rockies.

While there were probably a number of factors that led to the archiving of the page, the straw that broke the camel’s back was likely a car accident that happened on Highway 1A next to Gap Lake last weekend.

For two weeks, members of the Bow Valley Wild Ice page were asked not to park along the highway, but they continued to do so in droves. The over-crowding of vehicles along the road inevitably resulted in a multi-car collision and injuries.

RCMP Cpl. Sabrina Clayton, said that a westbound SUV was proceeding up the hill past the entrance to the Gap Lake recreation area parking lot, when the driver made a U-turn in the middle of the highway to park on the opposite shoulder.

“As a result of the driver’s actions, another SUV had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision,” wrote Clayton. “The pick-up truck behind the secondary SUV was unfortunately not able to stop in time. This resulted in an unavoidable collision. Occupants of the secondary SUV were treated at the scene by EMS for Injuries.”

So, why was the Facebook page so successful? While nearly every lake in the Bow Valley is frozen this time of year, most are covered with too much snow to skate on. However, strong winds often clear the snow off some lakes, but not others. The Facebook page helped hopeful skaters narrow down their options.

The overcrowding of lakes and parking lots is hopefully a thing of the past with the archiving of Bow Valley Wild Ice. But with the word out that the Bow Valley has world-class alpine lakes to play on, you can be sure that the boom of mountain lake skating is far from over.

Lake Louise Skating 2020