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Skate the Lake in Portland Reinventing Itself


Different approach after 20 years, switch to pop-up style events, Skate the Lake Challenge remains


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - November 12, 2023


Volunteers of a popular skating event in the village of Portland, Ontario in the township of Rideau Lakes are working on reinventing the way they have organized races for 20 years. Traditionally, Skate the Lake was held on the last weekend of January, but the pandemic and climate change have organizers reconsider that approach.


“Twenty years ago we picked the last weekend of January to organize an exciting weekend of speed skating races on Big Rideau Lake because it is traditionally the coldest weekend of the winter here, but the weather is so unreliable that it doesn’t make sense to plan so far ahead anymore,” says John Bongers, president of Portland Outdoors, the volunteer group that is behind Skate the Lake. “To deal with the reality of frequent warming spells and rain we are going to experiment with pop up style events where we will decide on races only a few days in advance when we have a clear picture of short-term weather forecast,” Bongers said.


Every year, Portland Outdoors prepares a spectacular one-kilometer oval on the shallow bay in front of the village. It has hosted the North American Marathon Speed Skating Championships in 2006 and 2014. 
During the pandemic, Portland Outdoors volunteers switched focus from being a mostly Skate the Lake weekend focused group to an organization focused on opening the oval as early as safely possible and keeping it open as long as possible. The formula of offering a safe and healthy physical outdoor activity proved a very successful combination and the Skate the Lake Challenge was introduced. The Skate the Lake Challenge is open as long as the oval is open and individual skaters track their total kilometres throughout the season.


January 2023 was the first time in three years that a Skate the Lake weekend was planned due to the pandemic, but the event had to be cancelled because of poor ice conditions, the same reason that the Ottawa Rideau Canal never opened for skating.


“We are taking our twentieth anniversary to try something new. Instead of picking a date months in advance we will look at the short term forecast and make a call to host races when we are sure the weather is favourable, much like pop-up events are called at the last minute,” said Bongers. 


Portland Outdoors is hosting a meeting for any new volunteers who would like to get involved. The meeting will be at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #231 at 2314 Harlem Road on November 27 at 7 p.m. Volunteers with marketing, writing and social media experience as well as volunteers with experience in running and timing events are particularly needed.


Website - www.skatethelakeportland.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/skatethelake
Twitter - www.twitter.com/bigrideauskate
Strava - www.strava.com log in and search for the Skate the Lake club


Skate the Lake sponsors include: Andress’ Independent Grocers, C & M Superior Docks, Canadian Tire Smiths Falls, Country Roads Community Health Centre, G. Tackaberry & Sons Construction, Herlehy Home Hardware, Jamesview Builders & Electrical, Kudrinko’s, Leeds Transit, Leisure Days RV Center, Len’s Cove Marina, Levac Propane, McNichols Electrical and Plumbing Ltd, Raymond Marine, P3 Panel, RBC Royal Bank, RCL Automotive and Tire Discounter, RE/MAX, Recess Café, Rideau Realty, Rideau Valley Landscaping and Supplies, Scotland Funeral Homes, Smiths Falls Nissan, Smith Petrie Carr and Scott Insurance Brokers, SSP Cabinetry and Millwork, The Review Mirror, Tim Hortons Smiths Falls, Township of Rideau Lakes, United Edge - Structural Components, WC Gas Works and WTC Communications.


For more information contact Skate the Lake at stlportlandoutdoors@gmail.com or 613-207-1950.

 

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Skate the Lake in Portland, Ontario cancelled

Portland, Ontario - for immediate release – February 6, 2023

Skate the Lake was set to return to Portland, Ontario, however ice conditions are not good enough to hold the event.

“Obviously we are all very disappointed to have to cancel Skate the Lake 2023, but it is the right call. After postponing the event to Family Day weekend we were hoping for a sustained period of cold temperatures and that just didn’t happen,” said Skate the Lake co-founder and past president Marco Smits. “I do feel that the future is bright for Skate the Lake. We had so many dedicated volunteers working on this behind the scenes this year, we even had some new sponsors and new food vendors lined up. So many people were looking forward to this and we are already thinking ahead to 2024.”

This would have been the 18th edition of the popular skating event held on Big Rideau Lake.

Skate the Lake is organized by Portland Outdoors, a not-for-profit group that puts on the annual event which was previously known as the International Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating Marathon. The North American Marathon Speed Skating Championships were held in Portland in 2006 and 2014, and in 2009 an episode of the Rick Mercer Report was filmed. Portland is located 40 minutes north of Kingston and 100 kilometres south of Ottawa and the multi day skating festival has become a mainstay with locals as well as skaters across North America.

Website - www.skatethelakeportland.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/skatethelake
Twitter - www.twitter.com/bigrideauskate
Strava - www.strava.com log in and search for the Skate the Lake club

 

For more information contact Skate the Lake at stlportlandoutdoors@gmail.com or 613-207-1950.

Skate the Lake sponsors to date include: Andress’ Independent Grocers, C&M Superior Docks, Canadian Tire Smiths Falls, Herlehy Home Hardware, Hinton Auto Group, G. Tackaberry & Sons Construction, Hotel Kenney, IGNIS, Jamesview Builders & Electrical, Kudrinko’s, Leeds Transit, Len’s Cove Marina, Leisure Days RV Center, Levac Propane, McNichols Electrical and Plumbing Ltd, P3 Panel Company, Portland Royal Canadian Legion Branch 231, Portland Pharmasave, Raymond Marine, RCL Automotive and Tire Discounter, Recess Café, RBC Royal Bank, Rideau Realty, Rideau Valley Landscaping and Supplies, Scotland Funeral Home,  SSP Cabinetry and Millwork, The Review Mirror, Tim Hortons Smiths Falls, Township of Rideau Lakes, Ultramar, United Edge Structural Components, Wild Wing Smiths Falls, Willards Bakery and WTC Communications.

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Skate the Lake in Portland, Ontario postponed until February 18 and 19, 2023

Traditional skating weekend returns for first time since the pandemic

 

Portland, Ontario - for immediate release – January 9, 2023

 

Skate the Lake is set to return to Portland, Ontario, just not exactly on the weekend that organizers planned.

 

“Traditionally we hold Skate the Lake on the last weekend of January,” said Skate the Lake co-founder and past president Marco Smits. “However, the current ice conditions and the long-term forecast aren’t favourable so we decided to call it early and postpone until the Family Day weekend on February 18 and 19,” Smits added.

 

It will be the 18th edition of the popular skating event held on a spectacular one-kilometer oval on Big Rideau Lake.

 

Skate the Lake is a weekend full of skating races for all kinds of skill levels and all types of skates. The 10K and 25K take place on Saturday morning, followed by the popular kids 5K (12 and under) and the 5x1K relay race where teams that enter are encouraged to dress up. On Sunday, the regular 5K and 50K races will take place. Skate the Lake also includes a kids skating rink, horse-drawn wagon rides, bonfires, concession stands and much more.

 

During the pandemic, there was no traditional Skate the Lake -normally held on the last weekend of January- but instead there was the birth of the Skate the Lake Challenge, which will also return in 2023. The challenge was introduced in 2021 as a safe way for people to get some exercise and fresh air. The concept of the challenge is that skaters log the laps they skate on the oval throughout the winter and keep a running total. Last year, 70 skaters recorded laps and collectively they skated all the way to Regina, Saskatchewan. The collective total was 2,703 kilometres.

 

Skate the Lake is organized by Portland Outdoors, a not-for-profit group that puts on the annual event which was previously known as the International Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating Marathon. The North American Marathon Speed Skating Championships were held in Portland in 2006 and 2014, and in 2009 an episode of the Rick Mercer Report was filmed. Portland is located 40 minutes north of Kingston and 100 kilometres south of Ottawa and the multi day skating festival has become a mainstay with locals as well as skaters across North America.

 

For registration and a full list of race events visit www.skatethelakeportland.com.

 

Website - www.skatethelakeportland.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/skatethelake
Twitter - www.twitter.com/bigrideauskate
Strava - www.strava.com log in and search for the Skate the Lake club

 

For more information contact Skate the Lake at stlportlandoutdoors@gmail.com or 613-207-1950.

 

Skate the Lake sponsors to date include: Andress’ Independent Grocers, C&M Superior Docks, Canadian Tire Smiths Falls, Herlehy Home Hardware, Hinton Auto Group, G. Tackaberry & Sons Construction, Hotel Kenney, IGNIS, Jamesview Builders & Electrical, Kudrinko’s, Leeds Transit, Len’s Cove Marina, Leisure Days RV Center, Levac Propane, McNichols Electrical and Plumbing Ltd, P3 Panel Company, Portland Royal Canadian Legion Branch 231, Portland Pharmasave, Raymond Marine, RCL Automotive and Tire Discounter, Recess Café, RBC Royal Bank, Rideau Realty, Rideau Valley Landscaping and Supplies, Scotland Funeral Home,  SSP Cabinetry and Millwork, The Review Mirror, Tim Hortons Smiths Falls, Township of Rideau Lakes, Ultramar, United Edge Structural Components, Wild Wing Smiths Falls, Willards Bakery and WTC Communications.

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