A Perfect Day at Clear Lake, Manitoba
Like surfers flock to perfect wave, Manitobans raced to the lake to skate and see a once in a decade phenomenon.
The ice was like glass. Cold nights, no snow and calm waters when the lake froze, was the magic combination that created this perfect rink.
Geoff Kirbyson of the Winnipeg Free Press was the first to post on social media and alert the community to these conditions. The news took off like wildfire, and soon I learnt of it too. That was Tuesday December 7th. With snow and a storm brewing to the west it looked like I would have a window of about 24 hours to see this for myself.
Clear Lake Manitoba is part of Riding Mountain National Park. It’s a ghost town this time of year, with all the seasonal businesses closed, even the gas station. The only thing open in the park is Elkhorn Lodge, a self contained resort. Nevertheless, nature is never closed.
The drive would take about 90 minutes from my house. This was happening! I urged my friends to blow off work and come with me, but with the Christmas season in full swing, that just wasn’t possible for anyone. My 10 year old son got wind of my plan and declared himself in.
Early Wednesday morning we made the trek on the northern highways. It took directions from a friend to find this secret location at Aspen picnic area at Lake Audy, adjacent to Clear Lake and in Riding Mountain National Park, but we found it! And I tell you, it was like finding the holy land. Amazing!
The second we arrived my son was in awe. “OMG mom, this is so cool!”
There were about a dozen other people who had also made the drive. Some of them had boots on and their cameras in hand. Some had small children and sleds in tow, but just a few were ice skaters like us.
We suited up with skates, helmets and sticks and glided out onto the lake. I was nervous. Heck, I was probably even shaking. It all didn’t seem real or safe to my mom instincts to be out on the ice. The park officials, who were cited in the Winnipeg Free Press article, claimed the ice was 7 inches thick already. And indeed, I could see ice fishing shacks set up further out.
I gave my son clear instructions to stay close to shore and to move instantly if he felt or heard any cracking ice. We were going to play it safe. The weather was just too warm and beautiful for any of this to be logical to this Manitoban.
However, it didn’t take long to get comfortable and to feel safe exploring. The ice was thick in most spots, and we could actually see right to the sandy bottom of the lake about 5 feet below us. What was amazing is that it was so smooth. There was hardly a bump anywhere.The further you went out, the more untouched the ice was. Some places were as smooth as glass. We had a heated game of shinny and raced after the puck and each other. It was unbelievable! Really this was the perfect kind of thing for this hockey mom and her superstar.
We skated for a couple hours and posed for a few photos. This experience was the kind of thing you just needed photographic proof of. In my 40 years I’d never heard of a lake freezing so perfectly, and it’s just not normal to be without snow the second week of December in Manitoba.
The ride home was fantastic. We were rosy-cheeked and exhausted but so very happy for making the spontaneous choice to go on this trip. The granola bars and beef jerky I packed for the adventure never tasted better. This was our Manitoba moment. Unforgettable.
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