Very few times of the year are conditions as ideal as they have been the month of December for ice skating outdoors in Maine—on ponds and lakes that have “buttoned up.” After a number of rainy days, lakes and ponds have frozen over with glassy surfaces and numerous people in the Midcoast are taking advantage of perfect skating conditions.
To determine whether a pond or lake has fully “iced in” that is, frozen over so that’s it’s safe to walk/skate on, consult Lake Stewards of Maine for their map of real-time conditions.
Before you lace up, there are some recommended tips for skating on outside bodies of water.
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac states that ice should be at least three inches thick and clear blue for ponds and lakes to be out on skates. Be more cautious on rivers, where the strength value is 15 percent less.
- Avoid cracks, breaks, inlets and outlets with open water. If ice and the shoreline is squishy, stay off. Pay attention to any signs (such as small evergreen trees someone put out on Megunticook Lake to indicate thin spots).
- Watch for others who are skating or ice fishing on the frozen lake or pond. Go with a friend, but if you choose to go alone, make sure you have a life jacket and ice claws, a simple safety equipment tool you can wear around your neck if you ever had to climb out after breaking through ice.
Common Sense Tips:
Don’t let inexperienced skaters go out by themselves. (I saw a group of unaccompanied teenagers skate directly up and through thin ice areas, unaware that the markers placed there indicated dangerous levels of thin ice.)
Bring dog poop bags. If you’re dog is out with you, bring bags.(Skaters had to avoid one owner’s disregard for his/her dog’s “landmines” on the ice the day I was out.)
Natural Outdoor places to ice skate
Going by locals’ recommendations:
Lincolnville: Norton’s Pond is also good, but stay away from the culvert on 52 as the inlet is always unpredictable.
Belfast: Kirby Lake, known to locals as The Muck, a spring-fed reservoir at the fork of Lincolnville Avenue and Miller Street in Belfast, is also skateable.
Damariscotta: Pemaquid Lake, is perfect for skating, nice and smooth, by entering the first cove on the right from the boat ramp.
Man-made outdoor places to ice skate
Belfast: The High Street Ice Rink is available to the public through the efforts of Waterfall Arts, School District 20 and a generous financial contribution from Friends of Belfast Parks. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Camden: Maine Sport Outfitters sells new ice skates but also offers skate rentals, which can be taken off site or used on their man-made rink, just outside the store.
Indoor Places to ice skate
Rockport: The Midcoast Recreation Center offers public skate times for all levels of skaters from beginners to advanced to come and practice their skills. Here is a schedule of public skate times. (Note: the calendar says September, but it is assumed it means each month). And new this year is a Coffee Club, a fun and supportive skating session for ages 18 and over where you can enjoy a free coffee with a peaceful morning skate on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
For more places beyond the Midcoast to ice skate, check out Visit Maine.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org