Anyone who's ever wanted to drive an ice resurfacing machine, learn how to synchronize skate, become skilled at the grace and finesse of curling or hook up with a broomball league because you can't keep your balance on skate blades, can fulfill that dream at a local skating rink.
Whether you need beginner lessons or want to be challenged beyond your known ability, there's a piece of ice with your name proverbially etched into it. Some of these rinks are open all year, some are seasonal, and a few are outdoors for that Currier and Ives feel.
Most of the rinks provide skate and helmet rentals and some have walkers and double-bladed skates. They'll sharpen your skates (sometimes on the spot and other times within a two-day time frame), set up a birthday or other celebratory party, rent the rink to you and your friends and make sure you can get whatever exercise you want and need. Most rinks also have a snack bar. Be sure to check that what you want will be available when you're planning to skate.
The staff at the Columbia Association Ice Rink offers lessons in hockey and other activities. It's particularly well known, said manager Rachelle Weisberg, for its "super-popular Friday night skate (8-10 p.m.) with a disc jockey playing popular tunes. School-age skaters, from 11 on up, fill the rink in a school's out celebratory mood."
However, in case the Columbia rink has a schedule that doesn't match yours and you want open skating, freestyle or hockey at a different time or have some other needs, here are some options available at nearby rinks.
You can play broomball at the Herbert Wells Ice Rink and the Reisterstown SportsPlex. If you've never heard of broomball, you're not alone. It has been around for as much as a century, with increasing popularity in Canada, Japan, Australia, the U.S. (mostly Minnesota) and other cold-weather countries. It's somewhat like ice hockey (with six players including a goalie, on each team), except it's played in shoes that have special rubber soles instead of skate blades, a triangular-shaped molded rubber broom instead of a hockey stick and you chase a ball rather than a hard black puck.
Also at the Reisterstown rink, the Baltimore Saints offer a Saturday morning hockey session for children 5 years old and older who have autism, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or other brain injury or handicap. This is the largest special hockey program in the country, led by Jim and Teresa Zinkham. It's an all-volunteer group and you're more than welcome to become involved.
Perhaps the most intriguing offering from any of the rinks is the ice resurfacing lesson at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel. The session covers how the machine functions — clearing the ice and then spraying a new water layer that freezes to produce a smooth surface — and the history of the machine. Participants also have a chance to drive the machine.
Billy Carr, the marketing director, said they generally offer this two-hour session in the winter, but they'll schedule it anytime there's a sufficient demand. Each session costs $200 a person with the proceeds going to the youth hockey program, funding the traveling Tri-City Eagles and the recreation team Fighting Falcons.
The Gardens has a curling center and recently added a half-rink in the back (for a total of 3 1/2 rinks) that's used by the little ones who play hockey on a half-rink and for private lessons. Occasionally, they'll lift the side panels of the rear rink so you have that outdoor experience. They also provide walkers with tennis balls on the legs for those who need some skating support and don't want to hug the rink wall for the entire session.
A synchronized skating team was started at the Tucker Road rink in 2011 and already has competed in several local competitions. It's designed to promote fun, team building, and learning such skating skills as forward and backward steps, splicing, lines and circles, all set to music. So, you may not perfect skating enough to join today's version of the Ice Capades, Disney on Ice, Ice Follies, and Holiday on Ice, but, then again, you might.
Little ones are known for their short attention span, so if the urchins, ages 4-12, at your home have expressed an interest in learning how to play hockey, aim for the Piney Orchard Ice Arena in the Gambrills/Odenton area where they have a Give It A Shot course that is almost completely free. They provide the skates, stick, helmet and jersey, and teach hockey basics. The hour-long classes, under the direction of Nelson Burton, director of the hockey program, are held most Sundays at 8:20 a.m., with new sessions beginning monthly. You are required to pay a yearly registration fee of $35 through USA Hockey.
New to the area is the Rockville Town Square rink which, at 7,200 square feet, is the largest outdoor rink between Baltimore and Washington and the largest in Montgomery County.
Fees vary depending on the time and day. For example, the Quiet Waters entrance fee of $6 per car or van is waived after 5:30 p.m. during the ice skating season. They also offer free skate rental on Monday before noon and a senior discount on Wednesday. Montgomery and Prince George's County Park and Planning rinks have a discounted fee that non-residents don't enjoy. Yearly or seasonal memberships offer a discount that may include free or reduced skate rental and skating time.
Special events, such as two-for-one admission at Quiet Waters Park, outside of Annapolis, Feb. 13 (their Valentine's Day), are scheduled throughout the skating season.
When your family is torn between swimming and ice skating, the Carousel Resort in Ocean City can satisfy both needs. The rink is open daily (winter and summer hours vary) with different fees for hotel guests and non-guests. Expect the rink to be closed for a couple of weeks each quarter. The heated indoor pool is open all year.