It's not all indoor hockey rinks and Ice Capades. Here in the West, we skate with a spin
Squaw Valley USA, Lake Tahoe, CA
Twirl it up smack in the middle of the Sierra at 8,200 feet, surrounded by frosted peaks, black-diamond ski runs, and died-and-gone-to-heaven views of the sparkling big blue.
The scene: Parents toting toddlers by day, but after most chairlifts close, groups of parka-clad college kids and trying-to-be-romantic types pour out of the Aerial Tram for après-ski–and skating.
The inside scoop: The ice pavilion is at High Camp, which means after a few spins on the ice, you can put back a few pints before riding the tram back down the mountain.
Through Mar 18; squaw.com
Gallivan Center, Salt Lake City
Skating on the old rink was like doing laps around a kiddie pool, but 2010's revamp made it 60 percent larger. A block north, check out the restaurants and shops getting ready for the March opening of the City Creek Center on Main Street.
The scene: Families and couples whirl around after downtown shopping.
The inside scoop: The rental shop has an Olympic-class sharpener that'll hone your blades to perfection for $5. Too hard-core? There's Uinta beer on tap and hot chocolate at Patterson's Pub.
Through Feb 28; thegallivancenter.com
Hotel Del Coronado, Near San Diego
Thousands of twinkling white lights give extra holiday spirit to this classic hotel's Windsor Lawn turned rink just steps from the ocean.
The scene: Newlyweds, families looking for blizzard-free winter vacations, and locals on date night.
The inside scoop: Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa at the Coffee by the Sea snack shack, mingle with fellow skaters near the massive Christmas tree (the world's first electrically lit outdoor tree, in 1904), or sing along to holiday music while you do laps around the rink.
Through Jan 1; hoteldel.com
Keystone Lake, CO
Toothy 12,000-foot peaks rake the sky above a bustling base village that could charm the antlers off Rudolph. Come evening, a dazzling Christmas tree glows in the middle of the 5-acre lake.
The scene: Downhillers off the mountain and families snapping holiday photos with the sleigh and reindeer ice sculptures.
The inside scoop: Look but don't lick–the Chocolate Village, a 2,500-pound confection in the lakeside lodge, includes a life-size white chocolate Christmas tree and moving chocolate gondolas.
Through late Mar; keystoneresort.com
Grouse Mountain, Vancouver, B.C.
A tram swoops you up to 3,700 feet for rinkside views of the Coast Range and Vancouver city lights.
The scene: Bundled families come for Grouse Mountain's "Peak of Christmas" celebration (through Dec 24) with sleigh rides, holiday movies, and Santa.
The inside scoop: Poutine (fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy) is served up hot and with a panoramic view at the Peak Chalet, just steps off the ice.
Through late Mar; grousemountain.com/ice-skating
W Los Angeles, Westwood L.A.
An über-swank pool transforms into an '80s-fabulous ice rink in the heart of the city.
The scene: Okay, so you probably won't see Angelina Jolie, but you never know who you'll skate past in Tinseltown, darling.
The inside scoop: Cozy up to a winter cocktail in your own private cabana for hourly "snowfall," L.A.'s best attempt at winter weather. Have a flair for drama? Make a Saturday night skate date for the Cabaret Ice Theater.
Through Jan 1; wlosangeles.com/chill
Photo by Son/John via Flickr; written by Haley Minick
Embarcadero Center, San Francisco
Gaze at the Ferry Building's stunning white clock tower and the sprawling Bay Bridge while you carve up the ice.
The scene: First-daters, birthday parties, and plenty of San Francisco characters.
The inside scoop: Make a night of it with a skate under the (fog-covered) stars followed by a cocktail at the Ferry Building's Slanted Door.
Through Jan 8; embarcaderocenter.com
Photo by Dolan Halbrook via Flickr; written by Haley Minick
Curry Village, Yosemite, CA
Good luck keeping your eyes on the ice–this rink is smack-dab between snowcapped idols Half Dome and Glacier Point.
The scene: Happy tourists and winter-loving locals.
The inside scoop: The rink started as a flooded parking lot in 1928 and has been a must-skate ever since. Grab s'more ingredients near the rental shop for a melty treat by the rinkside firepit.
Through early Mar; yosemitepark.com
Evergreen Lake, CO
This 40-acre lake in the foothills west of Denver is the kind other mountain towns would kill for. The whole town shows up to scoot, slide, and glide on the 8 acres of maintained ice.
The scene: Rumor has it that Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton used to practice his double axels here, but these days it's pickup hockey players, sweethearts, families, and day-trippers.
The inside scoop: Skaters sip hot chocolate and warm up in the Evergreen Lake House. After hours, walk to Willow Creek Restaurant, the cozy go-to for gingerbread cookie martinis.
Through Mar 1; evergreenrecreation.com
Winthrop Rink, Methow Valley, WA
Bald eagles commute overhead, and Mt. Gardner presides over the Sawtooth Range to the west.
The scene: Sporty locals lace up their skates and skis here at the Community Trailhead (a 22-mile riverfront trail), a short walk over a new pedestrian suspension bridge to town.
The inside scoop: Wannabe hockey players can test their mettle during friendly open "Sticks and Pucks" sessions.
Through Mar 1; winthropicerink.blogspot.com