It’s just that my problem with frozen bodies of water is that they are (for the most part) not easily accessible, unreliable, and dark - most of the time. I’ll use “my” brook as an example, but if you have the right conditions then you should probably just be thanking the ice gods for your good fortune.
“Not easily accessible” because unless you have the perfect property, chances are it’s tough to find a skateable natural facility close to where you live. Even though that brook is right behind our house, we need to climb down a rough bank and then slip and slide along some slanted and broken-up ice along the shore to get to our destination.
“Unreliable” because the ice is often uneven, bumpy, and cracked. Since we bought this house in 1996, I could probably count on one hand the number of times that the ice on the brook was suitable for skating. This year is the exception, however. I have managed to find some patches of smooth-ish ice, and we have skated on it twice already. One reason that we haven't been out more often is that the temperatures have been very low and there is always (at minimum) a breeze out there in the wide open. (Yesterday, after about 1.5 hours out there, the wind really picked up and was strong enough to blow us across the ice.) Time once again for Backyard Ice Math©:
low temperatures + wind = –30 degree wind chill = X
X + young kids = crying to go in after five minutesWe might get another shot at it, as there is still unbelievably not much snow in the forecast and the rink is still a work in progress. By this time of the winter, the brook is usually buried in several feet of wind-packed and frozen snow that is stuck like glue to the ice surface.
My final problem with the frozen body of water is the inherent darkness. If you live in sub-zero climes then you know that there are only a few hours of daylight in the winter. Skating on bumpy and crevasse-infested ice when you can’t see anything is not recommended. The second reason that we haven't been out on the brook more often this winter is that when school and their other activities are done, it is very rare for the kids to be home in the daylight, leaving only selective weekends for skating (and then you have a Backyard Ice Math© situation, as above). The nice thing about the backyard rink is how relatively easy it is to light ‘er up…you can see some of my elaborate lighting system in the pictures.
If you have access to the perfect frozen pond, lake, brook, or river, then just go out and have yourself some fun. And, stay tuned for Part II in this series, where I “compete” for the World Pond Hockey Championship. An obvious future Part - a post on the Rideau Canal - will just have to wait until I get the honour of skating there!