Put on your skates and head to the parks

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It’s a cold winter day, snow is falling and vacation is in full swing. Four kids sit in the warming house at the Powderhorn Park ice rink. They’re bundled in warm coats and scarves, and piles of gloves and hats surround them. Judging by their flaming red cheeks, they’ve just come in from ice-skating. The warming house attendant has doled out hot cocoa and little bags of popcorn to everyone.

Owlyn, 11, says he has been skating since he was 3. “My favorite part is gliding on the ice and going really fast.” Oliver, 10, agrees and explains that gliding is when you get a running start, then slide across the ice while standing still.

Aphia, 9, enjoys going fast and “making cool designs in the ice.” Soma, 10, says that her favorite part is skating backwards.

“I’ve never seen you do that before,” says one of the kids.
“I’ll show you when we get outside,” responds Soma as she sips hot cocoa.
Aphia and Soma remember how they first started ice-skating at ages 5 and 3. Aphia used two hockey sticks to help keep himself upright. Soma, who had only just started walking, got out on the ice holding onto a folding chair, which easily slid along with her.

While some people learn to skate when they are young, like these kids, others learn when they are much older. Tyrell Dunn, an employee at Powderhorn Park likes seeing “little kids you thought couldn’t skate, but they can; and adults you thought could skate, but they can’t. It’s funny.” Dunn has worked in the warming house for two seasons now. He prefers working in the warming house (instead of the main park building) because, “more people come there than the building. I meet lots of people from the community and people who are on vacation in Minneapolis.”

Dunn explains that the warming house is for anyone who has been sledding or skating in the park. They can come and have free hot chocolate and popcorn and sit as long as they like. Dunn, or other attendants on duty, can also help you find a pair of skates that will fit you. The warming house has dozens of hockey and figure skating skates available to borrow for free.

Dave Garmany, the recreation coordinator at the park, says the rink has been open for just eight days so far this season. It has been closed due to weather and holidays on various days, but, if all goes according to plan, the rink should remain open until Feb. 16. The rink has already had an average of 42 skaters a day.

Last year the Powderhorn rink averaged 70 skaters a day on weekends and over 30 skaters a day on weekdays.

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board maintains 23 ice rinks around the city. Some are on lakes and some are man-made in fields. In addition to skating rinks, there are rinks set up for hockey, pond hockey or broomball. Almost all of the rinks have a warming house and skates available for free loan.

You can call the Winter Season Hotline at 612-313-7708 to find out about rink conditions or closings. The hotline is updated on a regular basis. You can also check < ahref="http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=52&prid=794" target="_blank">here at the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board website for information on ice rink locations, conditions, and what is offered at each rink

Note that if the wind chill temperature reaches minus 20 degrees one hour prior to opening, all of the rinks will be closed.

Oliver, Owlyn and Aphia all agree that they prefer skating on lakes so they’re disappointed that they can only skate in the winter. Oliver likes the lakes because they’re free to skate on; indoor ice rinks cost money. “It’s also cool on lakes,” adds Owlyn, “because you can look under the ice and see bubbles. But in rinks it’s just ice.” Suddenly, Owlyn announces that he’s too hot in the warming house and eveyone heads back out to the ice. Under a gray sky and swirling snow, they crawl over the ice, possibly looking for air bubbles or maybe clearing a path for some good gliding.

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