Skaters glide across the ice in the Gunnison River canyon west of the city recently.
Skaters glide across the ice in the Gunnison River canyon west of the city recently.

The icy wind brushing across your face. The smell of the great outdoors. And, of course, not having to skate in circles on a small rink.

These are just some of benefits that can be reaped when lake skating frozen water bodies in the high country.

There is no official start date for lake-skating season, due to the fact that it all depends on the weather during a given year. But this winter’s relative lack of snow has extended the season for many avid skaters in the Gunnison Valley.

High-altitude lakes and the Gunnison River canyon west of the city are some of the places where lake skating typically becomes possible in early to mid November.

While skiers and snowboarders look forward to frozen precipitation falling from the sky each winter, it tends to end the lake-skating season. Snowfall on an iced-over lake it makes it nearly impossible to produce a smooth run on skates.

That’s why avid lake skaters have had a heyday in recent weeks, taking advantage of conditions on such frozen water bodies as Spring Creek Reservoir and Mirror Lake — both of which typically hold too much snow in early winter for smooth skating.

However, the lack of snow is not completely unusual. According to longtime local avid lake skater Gregg Morin, there have been times in the Gunnison Valley in which lakeskating season has gone all the way into February.

The one thing that has been unusual this season is that the Blue Mesa Reservoir hasn’t yet frozen west of the Lake City bridge.

Blue Mesa is known as a prime spot to lake skate, due to the fact that there is so much ice most winters. Even when a section of the lake gets covered in snowed, there are usually other places to skate. That’s because the large body of water — in fact, the largest in Colorado — freezes in sections.

While being outdoors on the ice can offer gobs of fun, there are dangers inherent to the sport.

Longtime lake skaters recommend first measuring the ice — in several locations, because ice thickness can vary. Once ice is penetrated with a chisel, a rod can be used to help measure how thick the ice is.

If the ice is less than three inches, one should avoid skating, because the ice likely is not strong enough to support activity.

“First thing, never skate alone,” Morin added. “Go with someone who has been skating in the Gunnison Valley before.”

Morin also recommends that you skate with a life jacket, throw bags and ice picks in the case you do fall in.

(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or brandon@gunnisontimes.com.)