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!

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.
These long blades are proving to be very stable.
Looking out towards Lake Crowley from our small inlet.

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