If you like to ice skate—or even if you just like the idea of it—last weekend brought the best kind of "perfect storm" to Maroon Lake: temps cold enough to turn the surface into crystal-clear ice, a thin-enough snow cover so said ice would not melt, and a still-open Maroon Creek Road. The result? Skating nirvana. Hockey players, and others in the know, had their blades sharpened and gear ready to go on Saturday, bringing goal nets, chairs, picnics, pups, and all the other accoutrements necessary for a day of fresh-air fun, with the Maroon Bells as a stunning backdrop.
I happened upon the scene completely by accident. Whether biking, hiking, skiing, or running, heading up to the Bells is my happy place. Last Saturday, since the road was open to vehicular traffic, I drove up to find some peace and quiet after a chaotic week. Close to the lake, the road was unexpectedly lined with cars, and the parking lot was full, save for one spot at the end. Curious, I made my way to the lake, hearing laughter and the muffled sounds of sticks hitting pucks before anything came into view. Even more than during peak wedding season or the height of autumn colors, the area was abuzz with people of all ages making the most of Aspen's high-alpine "backyard."
Just hanging out and watching made me feel like I was part of something special. From couples scooting along the ice in winter boots and families with little ones lacing up for the first time to multiple hockey games and the occasional figure skater, the lake was a winter wonderland unlike any other I've experienced. Judging by the reaction to the video we posted on social media earlier this week (our most popular post ever), it seems this slice of the good life resonated with you as well.
For those wondering if skating on Maroon Lake is actually allowed, you're in luck. According to Kate Jerman, public affairs officer for the White River National Forest, which oversees the area, "Ice skating is not prohibited on Maroon Lake. However, we ask all visitors of Maroon Bells to be stewards of this special place, no matter what time of year it is. This includes keeping dogs on leash, disposing of any trash brought into the area, keeping campfires in designated Forest Service campfire grates, keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and being courteous to others who visit Maroon Bells to quietly connect with nature in a serene environment."
Jerman also asks that winter visitors respect the new ropes installed along the shoreline and access the lake from the south side, past the ropes. Other smart tips include making sure the ice is thick enough for skating (keep in mind that snow and fluctuating temperatures will affect it) and going with others (for safety in numbers).
The road to the Bells closes this Thursday, November 15. After that, you're still welcome to skate at Maroon Lake, but, past the road closure at the T-Lazy-7 Ranch, you'll have to get there by hiking, Nordic skiing, fat biking, or snowmobile.