Another way to enjoy winter in the mountains

For those of us who grew up in a wintry climate, there are two ways to look at this season. Option 1 is to hate it and wish you lived somewhere else. Option 2 is to embrace it which is how a lot of mountain town folks got there in the first place. Some of us yearn for those deep powder days of carving pillowy snow, exploding as we command our lines down the mountain.  For others, we just love winter and ALL its activities from snowshoeing to skinning and Nordic skiing to pond hockey. Talking about pond hockey, you could equate that pond hockey is to ice skating as backcountry is to skiing/snowboarding. Ultimately, its pretty fun and encapsulates the essence of winter.

Pond Hockey – How the sport should be played

Lake Louise Pond Hockey winter

Credit: Chris Ralph(@ChrisRalphYQ)

Watching the annual NHL Winter Classic played on an outdoor rink, my mind drifts to the pureness of playing hockey on a pond.  Sure, ice skating on a manufactured rink is fun, but there’s something genuine about playing on a natural pond.  This is where the annual Pond Hockey Classic was born.  Each year, thousands of faithfuls from 25+ U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces, take to the ice to battle the elements and play the sport the way it was meant to be played – on a natural frozen body of water.  There are quite a few different pond hockey tournaments all over North America and here are some of the more intriguing ones:

Montana Pond Hockey ClassicWhitefish Ski Resort

January 20-22 2017

It’s only in the last 40 years hockey has moved indoors.  It’s exciting to know that elements of hockey are getting back to their roots with competitions such as the Pond Hockey Classic.  The first stop on this tour is played on Foys Lake in Kalispell, Montana.  In the summer, the lake is filled with fantastic fishing, but in the winter, it transforms into a perfect plane of ice.  Running three years strong, the winner of this event will raise the Monty Cup a champion.  Once you’re done watching though, head down the trail to Whitefish Ski resort and enjoy some of the best skiing in the country.

US Pond Hockey Championship – Trollhaugen

January 26-29, 2017

US Pond Hockey Championships Minneapolis St. Paul Twin Cities SportEngine, fka Sport Ngin

Image taken by: Sam Catanzaro

Starting in 2006, the first ever pond hockey championship was born. Drawing nearly 120 teams to Minneapolis from across the nation, they played on 25 rinks while tens of thousands of spectators cheered them on!  In its 11th year, ESPN considers this event as one of the ‘101 things every sports fan should attend before they die.’ Technically not a ski town, the Twin Cities have given us many famous skiers and snowboarders. Legends like Dan Brisse, Joe Sexton, and the 1817 crew all came from here.  It’s understandable when resorts like Trollhaugen allow these rail wizards to perfect their craft and then take it to the streets, stars would be born.

New England Pond Hockey Classic – Gunstock Mountain Resort

February 3-5, 2017

New England Pond Hockey Classic New Hampshire

Photo Credit: Mike Mooney – WickedNewEnglandPhotography.com

Dating back to 1883, Concord, New Hampshire is widely believed to be the home of the first ever organized ice hockey game in the U.S. The passion for this sport can be seen in the intense rivalry between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadians.  Depending on who you ask, this competition is as big as the Yankees-Red Sox clash.  It’s justifiable that only an hour north of Concord on the largest lake in New Hampshire is also the most sought after Pond Hockey Classic tournament in North America.  It’s so popular that teams fly in from all over Canada & the U.S. to compete in this event.

Vermont Pond Hockey Classic – Bolton Valley Ski Resort

February 10-12, 2017

Colchester Vermont Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Classic

Photo Credit: Joe Anger Photography

The Pond Hockey Classic ends in Colchester, Vermont. Not to be out done by the New Hampshire stop, it offers a venue played right on Lake Champlain.  Once you’re done on the “pond”, you can head over to the historic Church Street area in downtown Burlington and have a pint or grab a bite to eat.  You will experience food made with local ingredients and enjoy the mythical, almost legendary, Heady Topper.  This beer is a ripe, pungent and earthy imperial India pale ale, considered one of the rarest and most coveted beers in the world.  And for those spectators or truly hearty competitors that need a bit more action, you can even go night skiing at Bolton Valley ski resort.

Lake Louise Pond Hockey ClassicLake Louise Ski Resort

February 22-26, 2017

Lake Louise Pond Hockey winter

Photo Credit: Chris Ralph(@ChrisRalphYQ)

Depending on where you are in the world, there are sports considered less as an activity and more of a religion.  New Zealand has rugby, Indiana has basketball, and in Canada, it’s ice hockey.  The cathedral of this sport could be considered Lake Louise with its biting cold air surrounded by the majestic snow covered peaks. The deafening silence across the landscape is only broken from the sound of a “clack” from a puck hitting a stick or the serration of the ice skate blades cutting into the frozen surface.  The culmination of the entire winter is the Lake Louise Pond Hockey Classic.  With 24 teams playing across two 2-day tournaments, this is a sight to truly enjoy.

This is only an introduction to the pond hockey tournaments happening across North America.  We love skiing & snowboarding but there’s something just as magical about lacing up a pair of skates, grabbing a twig, and hitting a puck around on a frozen body of water. Don’t knock it till you try it. You might be a new pond hockey fan!

 

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