The ice is nice
Grand Valley Skating Center will open for another season in November
Curt Maki checks the weather report just about every day.
When the forecast is for temperatures in the 60s and 70s, his mood brightens considerably.
It’s tough enough to make water freeze in the desert, and when you run an outdoor ice rink, cold weather goes a long way toward achieving that goal.
“We could use a lot colder weather,” Maki said last week with a chuckle. “Last year we were supposed to open November 1 and didn’t get going until the middle of November. We’ll shoot for the first, but probably mid-November.”
Maki is the executive director of the 2-year-old Grand Valley Skating Center, which was born out of the closing of Glacier Ice Arena.
Glacier is now for sale, and some have wondered why Ice Skating Inc., which was the grass-roots start of Glacier, doesn’t just buy that facility.
First off, the nonprofit organization can’t afford the $1.5 million asking price, plus the estimated $800,000 in repairs needed.
The group is in the midst of raising $100,000 to keep the outdoor rink a viable option.
“Bottom line, we’d like to keep this going, and hopefully somebody comes in and buys (Glacier), and we can shift down to Glacier,” Maki said. “We’re pulling for anybody to buy it.”
Glacier closed in June 2010 after operating four years.
Ice Skating Inc. rented the Hockey Stop at 1130 North Third St., which had been a roller hockey rink, and converted it to an ice rink. After one winter of buying ice time in Glenwood Springs, Craig and Gunnison to keep the hockey program going, local skaters had their own ice last winter.
Outdoor rinks are nothing new to Maki, who grew up in North Dakota, but keeping ice frozen during an unusually warm western Colorado winter was a challenge.
“It works better in North Dakota,” he said. “We have refrigeration to keep our ice cold, but up there, it’s all natural. There’s not a whole lot of difference, though.”
To combat all those sunny days that make ice a little slushy, Ice Skating Inc. is erecting a sunshade. This way, the ice is protected, and skaters can get on the ice during the day.
Last winter, Maki covered the ice with insulated mats during the day to keep the ice frozen, and once the sun went down, it was ready to go. With the sunshade, the mats can stay packed away in favor of daytime programs, including learn to skate, figure skating and more public skating times.
Colorado Mesa University’s hockey team will practice in the morning, freeing up more evening time for hockey practices and adult hockey league games.
“With the shade, we’re trying to stay open a little longer, have some morning sessions we didn’t have last year,” Maki said.
The youth hockey teams travel every weekend, which frees up even more time for public skating and lessons.
Maki is adding a “Mighty Mites” hockey program for youngsters age 4–5 this winter. The Mites (U-8), Squirts (U-10), Pee-Wee (U-12) and Bantams (U-14) continue to grow, with a handful of older players joining U-16 and U-18 teams in Glenwood Springs. The Squirt team won the Colorado state title in the 2010–11 season despite not having home ice.
Maki is splitting the adult hockey leagues, with a C division for players just starting out and the A-B division for veteran players. The adult leagues are 4-on-4, plus goalies, which allows players to get more ice time by having smaller rosters.
“It exceeded what we thought was going to happen,” Maki said of the outdoor rink’s first season. “Being outside in the desert, you never know what will happen. It worked out well.
“The perfect scenario is being indoors, but right now that’s not feasible. It might be down the road and we’re looking at how we can make it better, but it’s working.”