After months indoors, a little outdoor activity like ice skating at one of Rochester’s many rinks is the perfect escape.

Jessica Schmitt enjoys skating several times a week with her 10-year-old daughter, Lucy.

“The oval at Soldiers Field is well maintained and very atmospheric, especially at night with the Christmas lights,” she said. “For nighttime skating, we recently learned how to turn on the huge overhead lights, too, so that makes it feel safe. Ultimately, you really can’t beat the views of the city from Soldiers Field!”

Schmitt said she appreciates the equitable access to this free activity, and it’s helped her learn to enjoy Minnesota’s coldest season.

Lucy Schmitt skates at the Soldiers Field. (Contributed photo)
Lucy Schmitt skates at the Soldiers Field. (Contributed photo)

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“I like the feeling of adventure when I’m out skating,” said Maggie Panetta, who grew up a few blocks away from Soldiers Field.

Panetta has been skating since her mom brought her to the rink when she was 4. She skated with the Rochester Figure Skating Club at the Recreation Center for 14 years and became a competitive synchronized skater. She currently coaches all ages.

Phirum Pheak, who learned to skate at the Rec Center with a walker when he was 11, likes to be adventurous with his skating. In addition to warm clothes and skates, he brings shovels and brooms on his outings.

“I really enjoy natural ice the best,” he said.

Phirum Pheak, foreground, and Tanna Urness, who both live in Rochester, ice skate on a portion of Chester Woods Lake that they have been maintaining for ice skating Tuesday evening, Feb. 2, 2021, at Chester Woods Park near Eyota. Pheak said that creating the rink and maintaining it is an effort at helping people engage with the outdoors and promote more meaningful exercise. "Just have fun with wellness," Pheak said. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Phirum Pheak, foreground, and Tanna Urness, who both live in Rochester, ice skate on a portion of Chester Woods Lake that they have been maintaining for ice skating Tuesday evening, Feb. 2, 2021, at Chester Woods Park near Eyota. Pheak said that creating the rink and maintaining it is an effort at helping people engage with the outdoors and promote more meaningful exercise. "Just have fun with wellness," Pheak said. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Cascade Lake and Chester Woods Park are two of Pheak’s favorite places to skate. He’ll shovel his own course.

“It took a lot of manual labor, but it was worth it,” he said. “The maintenance is much easier than the creation … The rink was shaped to how the land laid, and gives it an organic feel.”

You can find Pheak’s skating locations on the Tandem Wellness Facebook page, which he created to share his perspective on humanity and nature.

The ice is nice around Rochester, so get out there and enjoy that cold weather while it lasts. Soon enough, summer will be upon us, and we’ll all long for the sounds of steel carving slick ice.

Where can I skate in Rochester?

  • Soldiers Field Park Skating Oval and Hockey Rinks, 244 E. Soldiers Field Drive SW (recreational skating only on the oval)
  • Allendale Park Hockey Rink, 3000 18th Ave. NW
  • Manor Park Hockey Rink, 4238 Manor Park Drive NW
  • Lincolnshire Park Hockey Rink, 5276 Members Pkwy. NW
  • Viking Park Hockey Rink, Second Avenue and 26th Street Northwest
  • Northern Heights Park Hockey Rink, 900 22nd St. NE
  • Withers Sports Complex Hockey/Broomball Rinks, 2021 Mayowood Road SW
  • Bear Creek Park Hockey Rink, 1237 Marion Road SE
  • Southern Woods Park Studio Rink, 4982 11th Ave. SW (exclusively for studio skating — no hockey allowed)

Phirum Pheak's Tandem Wellness skating course at Chester Woods Park (contributed photo)
Phirum Pheak's Tandem Wellness skating course at Chester Woods Park (contributed photo)

Where can I get skates?

While skates are offered online and at most big-box sporting goods stores, several local businesses in Rochester sell them, too. Ama la Vita, formerly known as Blades to Ballet, in the Hillcrest Shopping Center, has a great selection of figure skates and also sells used skates. The Sports Headquarters on South Broadway also offers skates, including a selection of hockey skates and used skates. Discount stores like Savers or Salvation Army sometimes have skates.

Skating tips from a pro

  • If you are a new skater, please wear a helmet. It’s not embarrassing to protect yourself!
  • You should always keep your blades dry after skating. Use any household towel or yoga towel to dry your blades right away.
  • You’ll want soakers (soft guards) to help soak up moisture and protect the blades when you’re not skating. Keeping your blades exposed can be dangerous. Hard guards are used for walking around off the ice, not for storing skates.
  • Sharpen new skates right away, and old skates at least once a year. Bumpy, outdoor ice can damage blades over time.
  • Thin or microfiber socks are a must. Avoid thick wool or heavy-duty socks, which can make your skate feel too tight, leading to cold feet and blisters.
  • Tie your skates tightest at the ankle crease, keeping it snug on the ankle for support.
  • When you get new skates, heat them up with a hair dryer and walk around in them at home. You’ll get more comfortable in them this way, and create a more custom fit.