Ice skating on a frozen lake is a concept that evokes nostalgia and memories of families gathering to strap on their skates, bundle up in their winter gear and bask in the bright, crisp sunshine of a Wyoming winter’s day.
That imagery is a reality at Boysen State Park, where the local park staff have cleared the snow off an area of the swim beach and prepared the surface for ice skating.
“So far, it’s been an enormous success,” Boysen State Park District Manager Brooks Jennings told Cowboy State Daily about the tradition of skating on the lake. “(It) provides people with some alternative recreation activities in the wintertime.”
Jessica Fowler is a recent Wyoming transplant from Arkansas. She and a group of friends from Lander who call themselves “Women Who Hike” made the trip to Boysen from Lander earlier this month to skate, fish and snowshoe in Wyoming’s great outdoors.
“Being from Arkansas, I’ve never ice skated on a frozen body of water before, only in a rink,” Fowler told Cowboy State Daily. “It was just an awesome time. The view was incredible.”
This is the second year State Parks staff has cleared an area on the lake at Boysen State Park, although outdoor skating there has been a tradition for generations.
Former Wyoming legislator Eli Bebout of Fremont County recalls fondly the winters of his childhood when he and his siblings, Ruby (Calvert, former head of Wyoming PBS) and Nick (retired NFL offensive tackle), would ice skate on Boysen Reservoir in the late 1950s when their father was building the marina.
“Nick was a little young, but he had double rail skates to go out with us,” Bebout told Cowboy State Daily. “And Ruby and I and Mom would go out, but Dad never skated. He was too busy working to try to make a living.”
Bebout said that the natural movement of the ice would change the surface of their skating area.
“As the lake went down, the ice would buckle, and fresh water would get on top of the existing ice,” he said, “and it would be just like a mirror.”
Bebout said it was on that frozen lake that he first got a glimpse into his future as a pilot.
“One time, my uncle Howard, he had a Super Cub (single-engine airplane), and he flew down and landed on the lake in the winter and took me for a ride,” said Bebout. “That’s where I got my first experience in an airplane, and I always wanted to be a pilot.”
Ice Skating Opportunities Few in Wyoming
Jennings pointed out that open skating on Boysen is appreciated by locals because ice skating rinks are few and far between in the Cowboy State.
“You have to travel a ways in Wyoming to get to a ‘real’ ice rink,” he said. “There’s one in Cody and Sheridan and Cheyenne, and I’m sure some of the bigger cities, but for smaller communities, something like this rink at Boysen is a great opportunity.”
Park staff added a “frozen river” feature this year as a track to skate around, which has been used by people and groups who often travel some distance to enjoy the outdoor rink.
“Oftentimes, school groups will come and use our rink,” said Jennings. “And other local recreation agencies will make a field day out of it and bus people out there to use the rink. That sort of thing happens quite frequently.”
Open Until Spring
The ice is an impressive 2 feet thick, Jennings said, and it is monitored weekly for safety. Jennings cautions that the rink is not illuminated for use at night, so people are encouraged to skate just during daylight hours.
“Something like this, the rink at Boysen, provides a great opportunity for people to go out and give a new sport or recreational activity a try,” said Jennings. “It gives people something to do in the wintertime, which we all know sometimes we’re short on in Wyoming.”
Although the rink is free to use, skaters must still either have a Wyoming State Parks pass or pay the standard day use fee of $7 per vehicle for residents or $12 per vehicle for non-residents.
The park will shut down rink access in the spring when ice levels shrink to 10 inches – but until then, plans are to keep the outdoor space open and available to the public, for all to enjoy.
The rink is open Wednesday through Sunday, but is closed for resurfacing on Mondays and Tuesdays. Additionally, park staff have acquired skates and hockey sticks that are on loan from Shoshoni Recreation District #24 and are free to use.
“I felt like I was really able to embrace winter and embrace our new home,” Fowler said.