Nordic Ice Skates!
[$45, postpaid in the USA. Non-US pays excess postage.]
New. Skates only, NO BINDINGS, NO BOOTS!!!
If you like winter outdoor fun, these are the best thing since the sled (sliced bread?).
These skates LOVE wild ice. They're fine at the ice rink, if unusual, but they LOVE lakes, ponds, rivers, canals. They are long, low and glide through snow and over bumps.
To use them, you mount XC ski bindings on them. You could use any kind, but the NNN and SNS/Salomon types are the best. They come with small pilot holes in the standard 3-hole pattern, but you need to drill the binding holes then screw on your choice of bindings. (I note that my regular binding screws slightly go through the skate-base but that's OK.) Then you just click your ski boot into the skate and away you go! (Remember, no bindings or boots included!)
With these there's no more freezing while you sit out on a lake on a bucket lacing up your skates! You walk in your ski boots onto the ice then click on your skates...and away you go!
These skates are also more compact and easy to carry than regular skates since there's no boot on them and you can walk in your ski boots.
The heel comes up when using these, like the famous new Olympic racing "clap" speed skates. Or, like XC skiing. This feature seems to be a key reason why I no longer stumble when I skate on wild ice. I've heard they give more power, too, by letting you toe-off.
[UPDATE 2/14/13: Make your own sharpening jig! Jigs cost $40-100 so if you're a beginner just trying this out with these budget-but-sweet ol' skates you might not want to go all-in on a jig. Try this instead! crust.outlookalaska.com/DIYSkateSharpeningJig.htm. Oh, and here's a $15 freehand sharpener that's very popular: breakawayproducts.net. ]
Nordic Ice Skating has long been popular in Scandinavia where they have a LOT of wild ice. These skates are hard to find in the USA but they work great!
I used to use regular speed skates on wild ice but found myself tripping quite a bit, and hockey skates aren't nearly as fast or stable. Then I bought a pair of Nordic Skates and LOVE THE MUCH SMOOTHER AND MORE STABLE skating! ...Then I bought a bunch of them for resale at my store.
They have 17.5" blades made of quality steel. They will rust, so wipe them dry after use and grease them for summer.
These are the original Nordic Skates. Zandstra made the first ones. They have blue-painted hardwood bases. From above they are shaped like an arrow -- cool. Fancy newer nordic skates are twice as expensive but to me they are all very similar. I've tried newer types and these original woodies seem just as good. Newer types are usually the same length or shorter. One model is available longer. These woodies are the longest of typical skates. I sometimes think their tips could be re-ground to a gentler curve for even more smoothness on bumpy ice, but they're already amazingly smooth so I haven't bothered. (I had noticed that the 20" super-touring type has a longer, gentler curved tip.)
I often use skate-skiing poles and techniques when I go skating with these. What I really use them for is the 2 weeks of the year that it's cold but where we don't have enough snow for XC skiing or it has melted briefly. We always get a mid-winter melt where it rains away our snow one day then refreezes that same night but we don't get more snow for a week. These skates let me keep enjoying the prime winter days even when the snow goes. A lot of people whine when we get our melt, but I now find that it's fun to have a break from skiing for some high-speed action.
Black wild ice is so pretty! Often you can see right through it and watch the fish and muskrats swim around. Skating under the wide open sky is just such a great thing. It's so smooth and fast! Certainly, if you haven't tried it you're really missing out, and if you're in a cold climate there's probably nice ice nearby just waiting for you.
Be sure to follow safe ice practices. It's best to carry ski poles and ice-pick-pegs on a string around your neck (8" of 1.5" dowel cut in half with a nail hammered into each, offset and hole drilled in the other to receive it, with each end of a cord screwed into other ends -- follow?), and a 20' hank of rope.
Ice thickness basics are that 4" of new ice is safe. 2" is unsafe. White ice is not as strong as clear, new, black ice. Old ice in spring can be porous and weak. Thawed and refrozen ice can also be tricky. Easy way to measure thickness is to bring out a cordless drill and wood auger bit then drill a hole in a jiffy and stick a measuring tape down it. 5" will hold a snowmobile, 8-12" a car, 12-15" a truck.
I found most of these pics online, showing nordic skates in action. Some are of the blue woodies that I'm selling.