Ottawa has the famous Rideau Canal Skateway, but now the capital region has a completely different skating experience. The Skateway Through the Forest at Lac des loups, Quebec, a short drive north of Ottawa- Gatineau, is having an extremely successful first season. Skaters can enjoy a scenic glide through the forest and get an appreciation for nature’s beauty in colder weather.
The two mile/three kilometer ribbon of ice through woods of spruce and pine was the idea of Dave Mayer, a lifelong Lac des loups resident whose regular job is custom building houses and cottages. He saw another place near Trois-Rivieres, Quebec that offers woodland skating on TV and thought it would be a good idea for his own 100-acre property. “We have a beautiful piece of property, we should share it somehow,” he thought. Mayer got to work on plans right away, enlisting many of the 16 people who work for his construction business to help. He had never made an outdoor rink before, let alone one that is a path through the forest. “Failure is not an option,” he told his employees. He didn’t want to back down because word had already gotten out in the community and people were excited.
Last summer, Mayer used a grader to go along the route of the path and level it as much as possible. Fortunately, the weather this winter has been consistently cold in the area, so conditions for making ice have been good. Mayer uses an old tanker truck that used to belong to the local fire department to flood the path. To get that ice nice and smooth, Mayer went to an auction and purchased a used Zamboni that he or one of his employees can drive through the woods and resurface the ice with. The result is an ice surface as good as any indoor rink, and there are no hills, making it totally safe for all ages and abilities.
Mayer’s wife Monique and his sister-in-law Micheline are involved with the project too. They sell tickets to skaters and run the small snack bar in “Le refuge,” the rustic building Mayer built so visitors have space to change into their skates and warm up by the woodstove.
The Skateway Through the Forest has ended up being extremely popular. In less than two months, over 13,000 people have made the trip along winding Route 366 to enjoy skating in the woods. Robert Bussière, the Mayor of La Pêche, the town where Lac des loups is located, happened to be at “Le refuge” on the day I was there. He’s excited that Dave Mayer’s new attraction is bringing more economic activity to town. “It will bring us more potential,” he said, hoping it means more tourists will go to Lac des loups.
I laced up my skates and tried the path for myself. On a sunny, cold day, there was a cheerful mix of solitude and speed. Everyone else I passed had a smile on their face. I returned to “Le refuge” and dozens more people were eagerly getting ready for their skate through the forest.