The ice surfaces on the lake are nearly completion this week just in time for Christmas.
The Town of Sylvan Lake annually creates two skating rinks on the lake’s surface with the west surface opening on Monday with the east surface seeing an expected completion date near the end of the week.
While patrons have likely used the lake to skate on for over a century, clearing the snow themselves – the Town of Sylvan Lake has been flooding surfaces on the lake as far back as the 80’s, according to John Watson, Public Works Manager for the Town of Sylvan Lake. An infamous addition to the lake side skating destination was the addition of the Christmas Tree to the centre of the west surface 15 years ago.
Watson recalled the Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Sylvan Lake at the time had a notion skaters yearned for a centre focal point to enjoy while circling the surface.
“First we tried picnic tables,” recalled Watson. “They weren’t as aesthetically pleasing as the Town had hoped, so we decided to try the Christmas tree.”
The tree is frozen into the centre of the west surface and adorned with Christmas lights making for ideal night skating. Watson detailed the tree has become a Sylvan Lake tradition. Over the years changes have been made to the tree with the addition of the lights. He added a special power cord is run beneath the ice, frozen below the surface for safety. The ability for the cord to be able to freeze allows power to the tree.
“The tree and the ice surfaces on the lank have remained an economic draw in the winter for the entire Lakeshore district,” said Watson. “While it is primarily residents who use the surfaces, on any given nice day in the winter and even on the fairly chilly days you will see people from across Central Alberta and the rest of the province skating away on the lake.”
The Town strives to have the surfaces complete in time for Christmas each year. Watson detailed only two years he could recall the skating surfaces being completed in time for the holiday.
“In 1997 it was just too warm,” he recalled. “Then in 2013 we saw inclement weather conditions with extremely heavy snowfall.”
With the west surface playing home to the unique Christmas tree offering picturesque skating for patrons, the east surface sees nets set up for residents to play shinny and practice their hockey skills. The addition of the lighthouse to the Sylvan Lake skyline offers another delightfully pleasing sight to see while skating with the structure fully visible from the unboarded rinks.
Each February the skating surfaces become a gathering point for the community with Winterfest taking place. The annual winter family fun festival sees thousands occupying the ice surface for sleigh rides, skating and a fireworks show. Around this time each year the 5 km Speed Skating Track is completed attracting speed skating enthusiasts from all over the world. According to the Town, the natural ice track has brought enthusiasts from all over the province as the sport of speed skating continues to increase in popularity.
Watson wished to remind residents and patrons of the skating surfaces to never venture past the area of the rink surface either on foot or with a vehicle adding it is never safe to do so.
“We remind everyone using the surfaces to obey signage and never venture past the skating surfaces,” said Watson.
The outdoor skating surfaces in Sylvan Lake are located adjacent to the pier just off Lakeshore Drive. Vehicle access to the parking lots near the skating surfaces is located near the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and Centennial Street across from the Fireside Grill.