Ice Capades

Backcountry ice skating is a popular outdoor activity in the Eastern Sierra. In the fall, mountain and (eventually) valley temperatures plummet — and stay low — for some time before snow arrives and covers local lakes, ponds, and creeks. It’s a great opportunity to experience a different side of winter.

We recently got some Nordic-skating blades that snap onto our skate-skiing boots, and gave it a try on a small inlet of Lake Crowley, between Bishop and Mammoth. It wasn’t exactly “backcountry” — we were a few hundred yards from US 395 — but it was a perfect spot for an initial foray. Although he has skate-skied before, this was Mike’s first day ever on ice skates, and my first day since I was a kid growing up in Massachusetts. Ice skating is a blast — the gliding is magical and we hope to be able to do more. But if it keeps snowing, we’ll take that too!

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Poles were helpful for the first few laps around the inlet.
backcountry ice skating gear
Skate-ski boots + blades made in Holland = fun! But because this is an outdoor activity and not Disneyland, risk assessment is always part of the day. Essential safety gear includes an ice screw for checking ice thickness. [Ice should be at least 2″ thick; screw does not necessarily have to be Russian.] We also carry picks for self-rescue in case of too-thin ice, a throw bag for rescuing someone else, and extra clothing.
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These long blades are proving to be very stable.
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Looking out towards Lake Crowley from our small inlet.

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