Outdoor ice skating a classic holiday pastime in D.C. area

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Photo - Ice skaters at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden ice rink (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Ice skaters at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden ice rink (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Local,Abby Hamblin

It might be just past Thanksgiving, but outdoor public skating rinks around the D.C. area already are up and running at full speed.

"We can hold ice all the way up to a day that's 70 [degrees] and sunny," said John Connor, general manager of the rink at the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden. "Generally, we're able to hold pretty good ice even if it gets a little more wet in the daytime. I can't really count any days where it was too warm to keep open."

Ice skating season at the Sculpture Garden has been going on since Nov. 16. In choosing a date to open, Connor picks a 10-day window and chooses the coldest days to start making the ice, which takes three to five days.

"I had some days around 50 or 60, so I worked early in the morning and then after the sun went down," Connor said. "I've also got to worry about the trees that could drop the leaves onto the ice and freeze into the surface."

Meanwhile, in downtown Silver Spring, the ice skating rink at Veterans Plaza has been open since Oct. 19. It has a lighted metal roof and has only shut down one day since opening -- and that was not for temperature reasons, but for Superstorm Sandy.

"We have a chill unit that does the cooling portion of it, so we just have to maintain that and turn it up quite a bit to overcome the heat," said rink manager Richard Villena.

The Silver Spring rink is open for both Christmas and Thanksgiving and typically is packed on both days. "It can be pretty extreme," Villena said.

One of the newest rinks to the area is the one that was built for the opening of the new Canal Park in Southeast D.C., near the Navy Yard Metro station. The rink's first day in operation was Nov. 16, and the park offered two free hours of skating.

Most local rinks will be open quite a while after the holidays, but Connor recommends it as a holiday pastime.

"There is not skiing or things like that around D.C., so going to an open-air rink gets people into that winter holiday spirit," he said. "It's a great way for people to get involved with a winter activity without having to leave D.C. for the mountains."

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Abby Hamblin

Intern
The Washington Examiner