The Swedish skating clubs make extensive use of the internet to propagate information about skating, ice conditions, ice safety techniques, etc. A lot of the skaters use digital cameras to record their ice adventures and publish photo albums on WWW. There is a list of skating clubs in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Netherlands, databases for trip-reports and photos, and other links at: Skridsko-Net (the Skating Network). Of course, most of the articles are in Swedish. There is a description of the Skating Network's functions on Waves On Frozen Water
Many municipalities in Sweden and Finland plow off long skating tracks on lakes if they are covered in snow. These are not merely 400m ovals, but tracks over a MIL (or "nordic mile"=10 km) long. Lakes Runn (near Falun, see aerial video) and Orsasjön (near Mora) have ice tracks over 30 km long. Organisers of the Vikingarännet, an annual 80 km long tour-race from Uppsala to Stockholm, try to keep most of the its course, Vikingaslingan, plowed all winter.
There are now a few plowed ice tracks in Canada and US. The 8 km long Rideau Canal in Ottawa is the most well known. There is a 9 km plowed track in Joliette, Que as well as some tracks on lakes in the Laurentians. In Fairlee, Vermont there is a 7 km plowed track on Lake Morey, near Nordic Skating headquarters in Norwich.
NEW Near Radium and Invermere BC, Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club maintains the Lake Windermere Whiteway, 15 km (up to 30 km in a good year!) loop around the lake with parallel tracks for XC skiing and ice skating. Here is a photo of the Windermere tracks.
Tour skating and marathon skate racing have traditionally been very popular in the Netherlands, especially in the northern province of Friesland. However, warmer winters have limited the chances of outdoor long-distance skating. One ambitious solution to this problem was to build a 5 km long, artificially frozen ice track! Flevonice opened in Dec. 2007, in Biddinghuizen, Flevoland. They have a website in Dutch at: FlevOnice. An English report with photos of the track is at: trip report at Flevonice. Another description at: Tours and Tales:FlevOnice
Touring skates (alias nordic skates, trip skates, long distance skates, long reachers) have been developed for skating long distances over natural uneven ice. They are long blades that can be attached, via bindings, to hiking or cross-country ski boots. The bindings are either fixed heel or free heel (like clap racing skates). Poles similar to ski poles are used to aid in propulsion over rougher sections, but more importantly, to test the strength of the ice. Literature in English about tour skating is still limited but see the links below.
Since the climate and geography of Nova Scotia (and some other areas of Canada) are very similar to that of southern Sweden, there is a big potential for tour skating here. However, so far, there is almost no interest or information about tour skating here. However, it seems that long-distance skating was fairly common in the period 1860-1900 on the lakes and bays of the lower St. John River in New Brunswick. Skating was a practical form of winter transportation and there are reports of people skating on "Long Reach" skates from Saint John to Fredericton (about 130 km) in about 7 hours! It is also likely that the J. A. Whelpley's "Long Reach" skates were a major development in the evolution of speed skates. See more at: Long Reach Skates .
In "Skating(1892)", page 204, Heathcote writes:
The longest out-and-home run that has been recorded in England was that of Mr. C. G. Tebbutt, who, with his three brothers, Louis, Sidney, and Arnold, skated from Earith to Wisbech and back, a distance of 73.25 miles, in 9.5 hours.
Heathcote tries to explain the addictive mystique of long distance travel on ice on page 202:
something more than skating at speed on a track is required for the consummation of the pleasure. Perhaps the ever-varying condition of the ice, a succession of new scenes and objects, the wish to have "Something attempted, something done", and a feeling analogous to the 'cacoethes scandendi' (the urge to climb mountains) of the Alpine climber, invest with some romance the anticipation and reminiscences of a day's journey over a frozen highway.The comparison to mountain climbing is interesting, modern Swedish enthusiasts use the metaphor "Horizontal Alpinism"!
Occasionally the possibility of Fen Skating comes again, there were a few days of skating in 2012. There is now a 20 minute documentary available on Youtube at: Chasing Ice: The Story of Fen Skating
Most of my skating activity has been connected to kicksledding on frozen lakes and there is more information in the kicksled (spark) article.
In about 1989 I saw an advertisement in a X-C ski magazine for the wood-base Zandstra ski-skates but, unfortunately, I did not follow up on it; the local "armchair experts" said something like: "They don't look like hockey skates, so they would never work" !
Nearly 10 years later, my interest in kicksled led to the re-discovery of this type of skates and that the fact they worked excellently. I received a photo of skate blades, made by the Finnish company, FREE HEELS, that attached to a XC ski boot via regular NNN or SNS ski bindings. I searched for over a year across Canada before finding a similar model (which was the original Zandstra): my Zandstra skates with NNN boots
I still occasionally use those wood-platform Zandstra/Steinmetz skates although the wood is scratched up. The model was only made for a few years around 1990. Zandstra now makes aluminum platformed skates. But there is still a supply of the originals available as old stock from Nordic Skater and Out Your Backdoor
Here are some nice video clips (time in minute:seconds):
This magic carpet ride is quite unlike any other sensation the outdoor world has to offer, knocking mountain-top sunsets into a mundane second place. Nothing could come close to the ghostly calm and gravity-defying strangeness of the lake. No wonder so many of my fellow skaters deem it "a religious experience".