Ice skating has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember being able to walk. As a Northern Ontario kid, surrounded by fresh water lakes, I would routinely flock to local lakes and ponds during the winter months. It was common for us to disappear for entire days, fully committed to shovelling and preparing pond ice for endless games of shinny. Seeking a break from the shackles of the current lockdown order, our family ventured out for yet another family hike. Upon arriving at the trail we discovered the lake was completely frozen over! We decided we would dedicate the rest of the winter to ice skating at Wildwood Conservation Area. And so this is the story of how we found our happy place at Wildwood Conservation Area.
The Wildwood Conservation Area
The Wildwood Conservation Area, named after a post office that was once on the property, is managed by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA).
The UTRCA started building the Conservation Area facilities in 1966. The campground opened in 1968 with 62 campsites. There are now 413 campsites on the property.
Wildwood Dam is one of three major flood control dams in the Upper Thames River watershed. The other two being at Fanshawe CA and Pittock CA. At approximately 1,400 hectares, Wildwood has the largest land base of the three multi-use conservation areas. Wildwood’s campground and day use area cover 50 ha and an estimated 150,000 people visit Wildwood each year.
Ice Skating at Wildwood
Our adventures at the lake began with very little snow and as the weeks progressed, we found ourselves shovelling and building snowbanks around our makeshift rink. The ice rink became the perfect training ground for our boys to refine their skating skills. The plush snowbanks combined with the countless hours spent skating on the pristine ice means that learning to skate became an exciting game. Freeze tag? Check. Team pursuit speed skating races? Check. You name it, we found a way to do it.
I put a hockey stick in my hand and I felt transformed into the professional hockey player I never became, but always thought I’d become.
During our most recent trip we were blessed with a gorgeous sun peeking from behind winter clouds. It made for a truly enjoyable moment as the ice glistened under the soft winter glow.
We hope you’ve been able to find a place to find your simple happiness. This transformed lake has buoyed our spirits through the dark winter days. It’s provided our adventurous family with an outlet to commit ourselves to something bigger than we are. It’s allowed us to reclaim a part of our freedom we thought we had lost.
Our Ice Skating Checklist
Are you ready to venture into the great outdoors for a day of skating? Our checklist below will ensure you enjoy your time on the ice:
- Pack skates, helmets into a large duffel/hockey bag. We love our MEC Duffel bag!
- Pack water, and pack twice as much water as you think you’ll need. Shovelling and skating can get pretty sweaty, so hydrate with Nalgene bottles from Mec.
- Bring snacks! We like to be flexible and pack nuts, dried fruit (mango ftw!), dried meats, bars and some sweet treats! We love bringing Sweet Siracha flavoured Bada Bean Bada Boom snacks.
- Dress in layers and find a good pair of warm wool socks for everyone.
- Don’t forget a few folding chairs, hockey sticks and pucks too.
- And if you have to hike from your parking spot like we do, pack a lightweight sled to carry all your stuff!