Winter blues? Don’t hibernate—skate!

By Trust for Public Land
Published December 23, 2015

Winter blues? Don’t hibernate—skate!

Winter can feel like a grind. Dark days of dodging puddles, shoveling driveways, and misplacing mittens—it’s enough to make us want to curl up under a blanket and stay there until April.

Tempting as that sounds, it turns out one of the best ways to get through winter is to welcome it with open arms. Studies show that playing outside—no matter how chilly it gets—can help you stay healthier and happier all season long. Fortunately, there's a world of winter opportunities for those willing to venture out. Take the local lake: instead of nursing bittersweet memories of swimming and barbecues, you can grab a pair of ice skates—and glide through the colder months with grace.

That's the strategy for surviving the season in Cumberland and North Yarmouth, Maine. In these Portland suburbs, skaters hit the ice at Knight’s Pond—a surprisingly secluded spot surrounded by woods and trails for snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers.

For years, the landowner welcomed the community to his property, but with his passing, the site went up for sale—raising the possibility that a new owner might restrict public access. With your help, The Trust for Public Land helped lead a successful effort to conserve it.

With Knights Pond now permanently protected, everyone can skate a little easier. Penny Asherman, president of the Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust, is among those celebrating the win.

"Winter can be fickle around here, and people don't pass up the opportunity to get outside and skate at the pond," she says. "Word spreads quickly when the ice is ready: last winter, I sent out a text message to a few friends that the ice was perfect for skating—and more than 200 people came out that afternoon. Seeing the community coming together on a cold winter day was amazing."

So take it from the Mainers: getting outdoors will help make the colder months fly by. Ready to come out from under that blanket and lace up a pair of skates? Here are a few tips.

1. "Thick and blue, tried and true. Thin and crispy, way too risky."

Make sure the ice is safe. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers these guidelines for ice safety and rescue. Look for new, clear ice at least four inches thick, and remember that ice quality can vary significantly based on distance from shore, currents, and other factors. If you're skating somewhere new, get the run-down from a local expert—try a bait shop, outdoor retailer, or ranger station.

2. Better together
Skating in a group is safer, not to mention much more fun. It’s the perfect weekend activity for families—let the kids wear themselves out racing each other across the pond. If you can gather a bigger group, split into teams for hockey or broomball. And of course, skating can make a great date. (What better excuse to hold hands?) 

3. Sharpen up 

Start out the season with freshly sharpened skates. Well-maintained equipment will help you stay in control on the ice, making it that much easier to impress your friends (or your date) with your flashiest moves.

4. Dress the part

Wear a helmet: even the pros wipe out sometimes. When it comes to clothing, leave your heaviest coat at home and opt for lots of layers, instead. Once you get the hang of the balancing act, you're sure to work up a sweat.

Got more tips for a fun, safe day out on the ice? Suggestions for where to skate in your town? Leave us a comment—or join us on Facebook

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