Underground hockey in an abandoned mine
It’s a classic winter pastime.
But, in a remote part of West Quebec, the simple act of skating outdoors has gone underground… literally.
Each winter, the crystal-clear ice that forms at the bottom of an old, abandoned mine north of Buckingham, Quebec forms a skating rink like no other.
“What can you say? It’s “wow” the whole time,” says Barry Martel, an Ottawa-based photographer who glimpsed his first look at the rink while accompanying a group of friends for a quick game of pond hockey.
It is visually stunning. What’s left of the old Wallingford-Back Mine is essentially the inside of a huge rocky hill, hollowed out by decades of mining. Huge pillars hold the soaring roof in place, sheltering the thick ice that forms below. Giant icicles and stalagmites form throughout the network of caves.
Once the largest quartz and feldspar mine in North America, it hasn’t been used since the early 1970s.
It’s a tough slog to get to the mine. It sits at the end of a long, hilly country road. The final stretch is only accessible by good all-wheel-drive, or a long hike. “It’s a remote place,” says Pierre O’Connor, a hobbyist who explores local abandoned sites in the area. “Not many people want to venture all the way out here.”
That makes the Wallingford-Back Mine something of a hidden gem, known mostly by locals as a unique place to skate in the winter and swim in the summer.
O’Connor hopes to bring the feature a little more fame by posting its co-ordinates on his website, www.capitalgems.ca.