Skating in the wild used to be a hard “no.” Now some Colorado parks are allowing it.

The skating ranger at 11 Mile State Park says recreation is changing and that skating outdoors should be accommodated — when the conditions are right

Dan England
The Colorado Sun
Ice skating on Evergreen Lake has long been a popular winter activity. In this historic photo, skaters crowd the lake as vehicles are parked at the shoreline.
Harry M. Rhoads Collection/Denver Public Library

After an especially nippy weekend in December 2021 turned the lake at Eleven Mile State Park into something resembling a polished glass table, Kelli Lewis felt a tickle from her days playing hockey.

Lewis, the ranger at the high-altitude park, strapped on a pair of skates, gliding around a surface so clear that she could stare down to the bottom. And then she found a way to justify it: She could patrol all the anglers ice fishing for whoppers much more efficiently on skates than on a snowmobile. Lewis became the Ice Skating Ranger.

Lewis represents some new thinking among those in charge of keeping people safe in our wild areas. Ice skating is dangerous, and for many years, places wouldn’t allow it. But now there’s a compromise being struck. Many places at mile-high elevations still don’t let people glide across their frozen lakes and ponds, but it’s encouraged in areas with consistently bitter-cold temperatures and, therefore, more solid ice. Eleven Mile even hosts occasional events to promote ice skating, including some that loan skates for free.

“Recreation is changing,” Lewis said. “We should be encouraging people to get outside and utilize the resource.”

Interest in wild ice skating is building, especially at Eleven Mile, where Lewis became a local celebrity after Colorado Parks and Wildlife sent out a tweet showing off her skills.

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