For many Montrealers, one of winter’s great pleasures is to get outside, lace up some skates and enjoy some physical activity with family and friends. Estimates are there are more than 300 outdoor skating rinks in Montreal and surrounding communities but there are other places to enjoy this pastime in a magical, country setting.
Skating trails are becoming increasingly popular in recent years; instead of circling round and round, you follow a winding ice path through the forest. However, remember to check ice conditions before you go as a spell of rain or a brief thaw may lead to closures.
Skating trails growing in numbers and popularity
If you’re up for a day trip, here are a few skating trails to explore not too far from Montreal:
This picturesque forest skating trail was one of the first to open in Quebec. It all began when beekeepers Jean-Pierre Binette and Madeleine Courchesne flooded a small section of woods on their property so their young children could skate. It wasn’t long before so many friends wanted to come try it that they opened it as a secondary business. That was back in 1997. Today, it’s a major attraction at La Domaine de la Forêt Perdue, and staff even train others who want to open skating paths. Due to the pandemic, reservations online are mandatory this season and time slots are filling up quickly.
The property, about 130 kilometres from Montreal, offers 15 kilometres of iceways through the forest. Skaters can also see farm animals such as goats, sheep, ducks, deer, alpacas and even an ostrich. Admission is $19.13 per adult and $17.40 per child. For more info, visit the website domaineenchanteur.com
You’ll find the longest river skating trail in Quebec about an hour north of Montreal on l’Assumption river in Joliette. Access is free, and dogs are allowed on leash, but there are no skate rentals or nighttime illumination. Two pavilions with lockers and washrooms are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. As o January, 11, 2021 – the skateway was not yet open. Check the website before heading out to find ice conditions.
There’s no skate sharpening or rentals here, just a beautiful skating trail through the forest. On Fridays and Saturdays nights, the path is illuminated with colourful lights for an extra special effect. You’ll also find cross-country ski trails, snowshoe or winter walking trails, tubing and a rink. Access to the nature park is $7 per adult, $3 per child and $2 per dog. Visit the website for more information, boisdebelleriviere.com
This 2.5-kilometre skating trail borders Lake Mephrémagog, and features four loops with panoramic views and festive lights at night. Heated cabins offer a place to strap on skates in comfort. Starting December 12, the trail will be open 8 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. daily (closing earlier during the month of curfew). Skating is free, however non-residents must pay for parking. This season, the rink is fully operating, but only 25 skaters will be allowed at one time in order to respect social-distancing regulations. For more information, visit ville.magog.qc.ca
The two-kilometre ice skating trail isn’t the only attraction at this park. You’ll also find, fatbike, snowshoe and sled rentals. The refrigerated 300-foot-long tubing slide will not be available this year because of the pandemic, as well as any indoor activities like the indoor children’s play area. Bathrooms will not be accessible but mobile, heated bathrooms will be available. On Saturday evenings, the park also offers skating by torchlight, along with music. More information can be found at ilesaintquentin.com
Closer to Home
If you like the idea of skating on a path among the trees rather than in a typical rink, but you’re not up for a day trip, there’s another option closer to home.
Located in the heart of the Plateau, La Fontaine Park offers a green oasis for city-dwellers. In winter, the long winding pond at the heart of the park is transformed into a natural skating path bordered with trees bedecked in twinkling fairy lights at night.
An on-site skate rental shop, Patin Patin, offers skate and snowshoe rental, blade-sharpening and warm winter gear such as hats, hand warmers and wool socks. The park is open and free for all to enjoy.
If you can’t make it to a skating trail, you can always discover a local skating rink this winter.