Hit the ice: Skating options expand for Summit County visitors during pandemic
Summit County is without question a ski and snowboard destination, but your skills on the snow could translate to the ice, and trying your hand at ice skating could improve your carving out on the hill.
“The edging is similar,” said Tara Lane, a skating instructor for the town of Breckenridge. “You have your inside edge, your bottom of your blade, which is flat, and then the outside edge. Your weight transfer and the rolling edge to edge is the same, but the difference is the bottom of a skate is much skinnier, so you move from edge to edge faster. If you’re pretty proficient on skates, you will be able to understand edge transfer, weight transfer and how to turn on the mountain better than someone who doesn’t know how to skate — and vice versa from skiing to skating.”
There are several indoor and outdoor ice skating venues to enjoy this winter. And during the pandemic, more outdoor ice skating options will be opening up around the county to promote recreation with physical distancing.
The county’s largest ice skating venue with the most programming is the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge. The town of Breckenridge’s recreation complex is just south of downtown off Boreas Pass Road and features an indoor and outdoor rink for skating, hockey and curling.
If you’re looking for a simple, quick and easy skating experience, Stephen C. West offers open sessions for public skating, hockey and freestyle skating. The arena also offers skating lessons and learn-to-curl sessions, typically on Friday afternoons, on the outdoor rink. Skate rentals at the arena are $4, and private and group skating lessons are available.
To the north in Frisco, Meadow Creek Park is an idyllic outdoor skating environment. The town’s public works department plows and resurfaces the pond after completing snow-removal operations around town. Aside from full-on powder days, it’s likely the pond will be skateable at some point during your stay if you’re willing to wait out the occasional winter storm.
Frisco grounds foreman Chris Johnsen said the town has built what he calls a “truckboni” to resurface the pond like a traditional Zamboni. They took a truck normally used for watering flowers and attached a water-drop system to the back by drilling holes in PVC piping. The water cascades evenly out of the rear of the truck and resurfaces the pond as a carpet drags behind to help finish off an ideal outdoor skating surface.
“I was kind of Google searching and YouTube searching people up north in Minnesota and Wisconsin, how they take care of their ponds and backyard rinks,” Johnsen said. “And the guys were doing this on a smaller scale with their garden hoses and walking around with a bath towel tied to their waist. So I took that idea and blew it up to a pickup truck to spread out an 8-foot swath of water.”
Johnsen said crews begin to plow the pond when the ice is 4 inches thick, but it needs to be 12 or more inches thick before they take the truckboni out. The 150-by-200-foot Meadow Creek pond is open to skate from dawn to 10 p.m., with night lights that turn on at dusk
If you’re interested in skating at the pond and are in need of skates, Recycle Sports is just down the road. The sports consignment shop often has skates and other skating and hockey gear for sale throughout winter.
Those skates also can find plenty of use at a few of the county’s ski areas. Copper Mountain Resort and Keystone Resort also have ice skating ponds. At Copper Mountain, West Lake in Center Village has skate rentals available for $12. At Keystone, there are two outdoor skating venues. With five acres of ice, Keystone Lake is one of the largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor ice rinks in North America. Skate rentals for adults are $15 for two hours, and two hours of ice time is also $15 for adults. The lake is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The smaller Dercum Square ice rink in Keystone’s River Run Village is open for free public skating from 1-8 p.m. seven days a week, weather permitting.
“We are unique in that we do have multiple outdoor skating options,” local skating coach Chantal Wener said. “And in terms of COVID, I’d say it’s a very safe activity in that you can be very spread out and having fun away from other people.”
At the county’s northern end, there are a couple of pond and lake skating options. In the town of Silverthorne, the man-made North Pond is a popular skating destination that was made from a depression in the earth as a result of rock mining.
Town of Silverthorne spokesperson Kim Jardim said skating at the pond — which is visible from Colorado Highway 9 just south of the elementary school — will be a “bring your own skates” scenario this winter. In the past, the town would provide some skates in the venue’s warming hut for people to use on a first-come, first-served basis, but that is not a guarantee this winter because of the pandemic. Jardim said part of the pond is plowed for ice skating and pond hockey while another side is left untouched for ice fishing. Jardim said skating at the pond is allowed only during the daytime, though in the past, some twilight skating events for families and children have been hosted. Skating at the pond is free.
If you’re looking for a more advanced, freestyle skating experience, the county’s two largest water bodies are available for skating. Conditions are rarely ideal, but after windstorms clear the snow off the surface, some intrepid skaters will attempt longer-distance recreational skating on Dillon Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir.
Skating instructor Lane is one such person. Last winter, she skated Green Mountain Reservoir shortly after a windstorm had cleared most of the snow from the surface. She recommends only advanced skaters attempt the larger bodies of water. Those who want to make the attempt should research where they are skating, wait for an ideal day and understand that, like skiing, obstacles likely will be present.
“Outdoor ice is more challenging to skate on,” Lane said. “It’s bumpier; there are more outdoor elements. There’s dirt, leaves, flowers — but it does offer opportunity to be outside in clean air and see the beautiful scenery around you. You can go for miles and miles and miles depending on what surface you’re on or what location.”
Dercum Square Ice Rink and Keystone Lake, Keystone Resort
Meadow Creek Park, 828 Meadow Drive, Frisco
North Pond Park, 108 Hamilton Creek Road, Sillverthorne
Stephen C. West Ice Arena, 189 Boreas Pass Road, Breckenridge
West Lake, Copper Mountain Resort Center Village
Editor’s note: This story previously published in the winter 2020-21 edition of Explore Breckenridge & Summit County magazine.
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