“Skating is a way of life up here,” the native Quebecois said, as my sturdy Nissan S.U.V. pulled up, poised to plow through the snowy roads of southern Quebec where I’d come simply to skate.

Other than the Winter Olympics, ice skating doesn’t get a lot of attention among winter sports. It’s usually a “something for the kids” addition at a ski resort, or an activity built around a city landmark, like the rink at Rockefeller Center in New York City or the ice sheet at Millennium Park in Chicago.

But as a winter lover who once traveled to Winnipeg to skate that city’s sculpture-dotted frozen river in below-zero temperatures, I was intrigued by the icy fount of adventurous possibilities in Quebec, Canada’s largest province, where it’s possible to escape the oval confines of what we normally think of as ice rinks, and skate for long, sinuous stretches on frozen trails through forests and snowy landscapes.

Three freezing months at relatively low elevations has spawned a distinct winter culture. “Winters are very long and cold in Quebec,” said Robert McLeman, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. He and a fellow scientist Colin Robertson run RinkWatch, a citizen science project where nearly 1,500 participants have submitted climate data and its effect on their homemade skating rinks.

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