You’ll find Lake Windermere in the Columbia Valley between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Purcell Mountains to the west. It is the winter home of the Lake Windermere Whiteway, a Guinness World Record holder since 2014. It holds the title as the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world with 29.8 km of cleared ice.
It’s worth the winter drive to Invermere through Kootenay National Parkjust to enjoy the activities on the Lake Windermere Whiteway. Spend a weekend to take advantage of the exceptional skating and cross-country skiing. There is also fat tire biking if you’re interested.
Lake Windermere Whiteway summary
Length: The longest skating trail in the world at just under 30 kilometres!
Opening times: Typically opens in late December and stays open until sometime in March but dates are at the whim of Mother Nature. I have skated on clear ice the third week of December.
Real time updates: Check out the Facebook page of the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club or the Nordic Pulse app.
Access: There are three official entrances – the Kinsmen Beach in Invermere, by the Invermere Bay Condos in Invermere, and at Windermere Beach.
Parking: Lots available at the Kinsmen Beach in Invermere.
Skate and ski rentals: The Inside Edge Sports Store in Invermere
Cost: The Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club asks for a $5 donation per use for maintenance. You can also buy an annual club membership which gives you unlimited Whiteway and Lillian Lake access.
What’s nearby: If you’re looking for a similar experience nearby, check out the Lake Lillian Whiteway on the road up to the Panorama Ski Resort. It offers a 3 -kilometre classic and skate skiing loop, but no skating.
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Lake Windermere Whiteway – the longest natural frozen ice skating rink in the world
The Whiteway owes its existence to the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club. It was started in 2006 with the goal to connect the communities along Lake Windermere during the winter. By the time December rolls around and Lake Invermere is frozen solidly, the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club goes to work.
A 6-metre wide path of ice is cleared around the circumference of Lake Windermere. When they started back in 2008, only a 15-kilometre loop was cleared. Now it’s the whole lake and it’s officially 29.8 km (18.5 miles) long. The snow is moved to one side of the cleared ice – and it’s that snow that becomes the base for skiing. The snow is track-set but there’s also enough room for skate skiers.
How do you know the ice is safe on the Lake Windermere Whiteway?
The Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club follows guidelines so you know that once the Lake Windermere Whiteway is open that you’ll have a safe experience. Some of the pertinent details are below. The bottom line is the thicker the ice, the greater the weight of the equipment that can be used to maintain and groom the Whiteway.
“Ice thickness must be at least 5 inches of clear hard ice before employees may enter onto the ice surface.
Ice thickness must be at least 6 inches of clear hard ice before employees may enter onto the ice surface with a handheld machine not weighing more than 50 kg.
Ice thickness must be at least 8 inches of clear hard ice before employees may enter onto the ice surface with an ATV and sweeper (500 kg + operator).“
The Lake Windermere Whiteway – a superb family-friendly outing
You can do short or long loops on skates and skis and you can even bring the dog. On a sunny day, the view of the mountains from the lake is outstanding. Skaters and skiers in great shape can knock off the full loop in about two hours.
In some years in early winter, skating enthusiasts have been treated to mirror-smooth ice, so clear that you could see fish swimming below.
Fat biking the Whiteway
Fat biking is also permitted on Lake Windermere, but because of the wind chill, it’s a good idea to bring extra face protection. Carry an insulated water bottle and throw a few protein bars in an inside pocket so you don’t break a tooth.
Cars and trucks are also allowed to drive on the lake, but they are forbidden from using the Whiteway. It appears that ice fishing is popular but only at the northern end of the lake.
What to do after you’ve finished your Lake Windermere Whiteway experience
The Lake Windermere Whiteway is a short drive away from Radium Hot Springs. What better way to relax after a few hours outdoors skating, fat biking, or cross-country skiing!
The hot pool is open Monday to Friday from 11 AM – 9 PM and on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 AM – 9 PM. Entry is $16.50 per adult, $14.25 for a senior, and $14.25 for youth aged 3 – 17. Children under age 3 are free.
Location of the Whiteway
Invermere is located 275 kilometres west of Calgary and 17 kilometres south of Radium Hot Springs (a perfect place for a soak after your workout.) It is also close to Fairmont Natural Hot Springs.
When does the Lake Windermere Whiteway open?
The season varies from year to year, so the opening dates do too. Typically, you can access the Whiteway from late December until early March. The Whiteway is not lit at night but in theory, it’s open 24 hours a day. It would be fun to skate or cross-country ski under the light of a full moon!
Up at Panorama Mountain Resort, check out Embarc Panorama, rated superb. The completely renovated Approach Hotel on the ski hill reopened in late 2022 after an eight million dollar renovation. Look for rooms with a clean mountain and minimalist aesthetic at the base of the main chair lift.
More winter adventures in central & eastern British Columbia
For those of you interested in the area that stretches from Fernie to Golden or if you’re keen to visit the Okanagan in winter, check out some of these blogs on ideas to make winter a whole lot more fun. There are hot springs to visit, loads of ski resorts to try, cross-country ski trails to explore, and plenty of snowshoeing opportunities.