Above: Skaters of all ages enjoy skating the Whiteway.

The biggest ice rink in the world?

If there were a year to build the world’s biggest ice-skating rink, this would be it! With winter weather breaking snow and temperature records across North America, there is plenty of time to rediscover winter sports like skating.

If there were a year to build the world’s biggest ice-skating rink, this would be it!

With winter weather breaking snow and temperature records across North America, there is plenty of time to rediscover winter sports like skating.

Residents of the Columbia Valley in British Columbia are helping you enter the battle of the blades this winter with their expanded Whiteway — a 36-km skating trail around Lake Windermere.

The Whiteway offers skaters a six-metre-wide ribbon of cleared lake ice connecting Invermere and Windermere. At approximately 200,000 square metres, locals claim the Whiteway is bigger than Ottawa’s Rideau Canal with 167,000 square metres of skating surface.

You can skate the Whiteway for hours and if you have problems with turning corners or stopping, you’ll love this surface with no sudden stops or turns.

The Dutch learn to skate when they learn to walk and skate between villages on frozen canals. I set off to try the Whiteway, or as much of it as my skate-deprived limbs would allow, with the excitement of an Amsterdam resident getting new skates!

Instead of whizzing past empty bleachers and battered hockey boards of an arena, my view was the snow-dusted caps of the Purcell and Rocky Mountain ranges. Ice fishing huts dotted the lake, looking like temporary towns of Canadian Tire shoppers.

The hush of winter was broken by the sound of blades slicing the pond ice, reminding me of my Saskatchewan childhood when skating outside was the only entertainment in January.

The citizens of the Columbia Valley are proud of their ice and are challenging some of the world’s best-known outdoor rinks to set a new Guinness world record. Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is recognized as the largest outdoor ice rink in the world and Winnipeg won the right to call itself the longest maintained outdoor ice rink in 2008. Whiteway supporters are hoping they can soon call their rink the longest and the largest ice-rink in the world!

Guinness World Records’ representatives toured the lake in early January to verify the rink’s length and width. “The information goes in this week,” says Christopher Prosser, chief administrative officer of the District of Invermere, “but we do not know when our claim will be decided.”

If the bid is successful, a celebration will be held on the lake although “we might only have a week to plan an event,” says Prosser.

There are lots of reasons to visit the Whiteway regardless of whether the Guinness record bid is successful. When it snows, cross-country skiers can enjoy skiing next to the Whiteway. Hockey players will enjoy the B.C. Eastern Regional Pond Hockey Championships from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.

But go soon — the Whiteway is big, but what Mother Nature gives, she takes away quickly once the longer days of February arrive.

If you want to go:

• Check on Whiteway conditions. At the time of this article, the ice is almost 50 cm deep, but by the end of February, it is time to start planning the golf season.

• Entry to the Whiteway can be found at Windermere Beach and in Invermere at Kinsmen Beach and Invermere Bay Condos.

• Several hotels can be found in Invermere or Fairmont Hot Springs. Best Western Invermere Inn is located within walking distance of Kinsmen Beach and the entrance to the Whiteway. Go to http://www.invermereinn.com.

Carol Patterson helps businesses and people reinvent themselves through adventure. When she isn’t travelling for work, Carol is travelling for fun. More of her adventures can be found at www.carolpatterson.ca.

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