Skating on natural ice is different than on a Zamboni'd indoor rink. Because the ice can have bumps, ruts, and even a dusting of snow, its much easier to skate in special "nordic skates". The blade of a nordic skate is different, and clips into a cross-country ski boot. The blade is often even a little longer than a speedskate blade (think Bonnie Blair-type skates), and is probably more than double the length of a hockey skate or figure skate blade. Besides the longer length, the other advantage of a nordic skate is that it is a "tall" blade coupled with a "prow" as the front edge to cut over ruts and even a little bit of snow. (Here's a link to buy blades: http://www.nordicskater.com/blades.html )
Editor - Jim
This blog weighs in on topics such as long-distance skating, the Illinois canals, cycling, and a variety of related (and occasionally not-so-related) topics. I'd like to correspond with others interested in skating the Hennepin and I&M canals.