Both rinks open Friday; solstice celebration Saturday
By Katherine Nettles
Just in time for winter solstice, both ice skating rinks at Red Mountain Park in Crested Butte South are set to open on Friday, December 20. These local cold-weather favorites have been operating since the early 1990s and represent another marker of winter’s true arrival. The community has one full National Hockey League–sized hockey rink as well as an ice skating pond.
This month’s weather patterns have made the task of preparing the two “natural” rinks, which depend entirely on cold weather to freeze the water, a bit more challenging. First there were inconsistent temperatures and then came a number of heavy snows.
“The weather hasn’t been super cooperative,” said Crested Butte South Property Owner’s Association (POA) manager Dom Eymere during the second week of December, when daytime temperatures had hovered near and above freezing. “The indicator is 24 degrees and dropping. We look for those patterns,” Eymere said. “Sometimes it will be at 6 p.m., sometimes late at night.”
But Eymere and a dedicated crew of volunteers including Dano Marshall, Mark Goldberg, James Brennan and Kevin VanHorn have stuck with their mission at all hours.
The Big Mine ice rink in Crested Butte opened on Wednesday, and Eymere noted, “It’s always a great race between us and town. We have two surfaces and no roof though, so we do what we can.”
The lack of a roof meant taking several days off from ice-making last week and weekend because of the recent storms, just to clear the surface. There are a couple of different techniques to the ice-making, but generally Eymere says his crew lays down tarps in the late fall and begins building ice layers one quarter inch at a time. For the pond rink, that goes on top of a six-inch snow base. The hockey rink base is coarse aggregate, or road base. They use hoses to “flood” the top layer of ice and create new ones.
“When we finish up we start going to really small layers,” Eymere says. The final six or seven floods have taken place in the past two weeks, along with setting the lines for hockey. All said, the rinks use about 60,000 to 70,000 gallons of water to form a 6.5-inch depth.
Throughout the season the Zamboni maintains the rinks on a daily basis, shaving and adding water at the same time. “Sometimes we have to do some crack filling or spot treatment scenarios,” says Eymere. “It can be time-consuming, particularly when we get wet, heavy snow like we did in the last cycle.” Dan Law is the weekend ice maintenance and resurfacing point person, and additional positions for evening Zamboni shifts are currently open.
The pond and rink have amenities including changing rooms, bathrooms, night lighting, picnic tables, a fire pit and Bluetooth speakers to which people are welcome to connect. The POA replaced the boards around the hockey rink in 2009, and the rink also has a brand new heavy-gauge reinforced liner.
This year the POA is hosting a formalized winter solstice celebration on Saturday, December 21 at the ice rink, beginning with Broomball at 4 p.m., followed by a bonfire, a drop-in hockey game at 6 p.m. and public skate at 7 p.m. with music and other games. “It’s a great time to come out and have a Yuletide affair,” says Eymere.
The pond is generally open all day long for public skating, but bring your own skates (or rent them in Crested Butte) and no pucks or sticks are allowed there. The POA will post schedules online for ice maintenance times, games, open skate and pick-up hockey at https://crestedbuttesouth.net. The weekly hockey league soon commences on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. Sign-up is required, and the cost is $60 per person for the season. “It’s great recreational hockey,” says Eymere. The third annual pond hockey tournament, the Red Mountain Classic, will take place on Sunday, January 26 in a three-versus-three format.
“We have one of the most amazing amenities you really could have. A skating use and hockey use,” says Eymere. “The rinks are busy all day long with kids hanging out, and the pond stays open until 10 p.m. so it’s under the lights.”