The painting may make reference to the winter of 1564/65 which was, according to the records, particularly harsh.
The scene doubtless has a deeper meaning, linked to an allegorical interpretation of human existence which was widely held in the 16th century. This conception sees the devotee as a pilgrim crossing a life dotted with dangers and temptations, which he must avoid to reach salvation. Thus, bird traps, like the trap on the right in the foreground, were used in the literature of the time to symbolize of the devil’s temptations destined for lost souls (birds traditionally symbolised the soul). Skating scenes in art often portray the uncertain (slippery) nature of existence. Skaters and birds are brought together here both for their obliviousness and their vulnerability to the looming perils.
(Sabine van Sprang in 'Musée d'Art Ancien. Oeuvres choisies' [Ancient Art Museum. Selected works])