Think gliding across an outdoor ice rink is the kind of fun one can only enjoy during deepest, darkest January?
Think again. In Sun Valley, skaters can glide gracefully across the ice in shorts and a T-shirt under the bright summer sun. It is a unique experience that everyone - young or old, first-time skater or veteran - should have.
“I’ve been all over the world and this is the only place, to my knowledge, that you can skate outside all year,” said Gilbert Graham, an amateur ice dancer from Santa Barbara, Calif. “And it’s wonderful.”
At 71, Graham, a retired engineer, has been coming to Sun Valley to skate each summer for about 10 years. He is one of many ice dancers who make up the Geriatric Figure Skating Club of Sun Valley, a group founded in 1973, when most of its members had just crossed the threshold of their 50s.
“Our club colors are black and blue,” joked president Leo Robbins, a native New Yorker who is sidelined from skating this year, but has spent 25 summers in Sun Valley. “It started as somewhat of a spoof, but its turned out to be a quite serious organization. We do it to further the art of ice dancing, and to retain an illusion of youth, which I think is very essential.”
The outdoor rink has been a fixture at the Sun Valley Lodge since 1937. Originally, it was a small 120-foot by 60-foot surface. That was expanded in 1955 to 180-foot by 90-foot, which is what it is today. In 1959, the lodge added a canopy to the rink, to block about 85 percent of the sun’s rays and preserve the ice and extend the public skating time during the day. Sun Valley also has an indoor rink, which is located just behind the outdoor rink, near the main lodge.
For the beginning skater, lessons are available at a cost of $20 for 20 minutes. The lessons are taught by professional skaters, who perform in the Saturday night ice show. Ice rink staffers recommend at least one lesson for anyone new to the sport, whether age 6 or 60.
And don’t worry about having skates of your own. A full range of rental sizes are available in both figure and hockey skates.
Most important, said Los Angeles figure skating teacher Aimee Karvette, don’t be intimidated by the leaps and spins being done by more experienced skaters.
“Just get out and have some fun,” said Karvette, who was both vacationing with her family and teaching a few lessons. “It’s so cool to skate here and to be outdoors.”