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Season on ice

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

A long, cold winter isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

But for the team charged with maintaining Snowmass Village’s public ice rink, consistent low temperatures mean the difference between staying open and having to close.

This time last year, the rink was forced to close early after high temperatures and constant sunlight made it impossible to keep the outdoor rink frozen for more than a total of a few weeks. But this winter, consistently low temperatures have helped the Parks, Recreation and Trails Department better maintain the ice, keeping the rink open more consistently and encouraging more and more use.

“It’s been amazing,” Director Andy Worline said.

The town got involved in operating the formerly volunteer-run rink three years ago, taking sole responsibility for the past two winters. While last year was pretty much a bust, the town isn’t doing anything that differently this year, Worline said.

“Weather plays into this a lot,” Worline said.

The rink is open, with lights on, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The town offers rentals and has some supervised, scheduled activities, including public skate (no sticks or pucks), drop-in broomball and a stick and puck time for kids. Otherwise, it’s just “open skate,” when the rink is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Most people are pretty friendly about it, though.

“If there are no adults there, we’ll usually just play a little scrimmage with me and my friends, but if there are other people there, we’ll usually play with them,” said Jack Pevny, 13, of Snowmass Village.

Like a lot of area hockey players, Jack has Thursday nights off from practice, so if he doesn’t have homework, he’ll meet his friends at the ice rink.

“The ice is really good for it being a pond, and the boards are nice, too,” Jack said. “It’s a lot of fun — it’s just very cold.”

Grassroots effort

A group of Snowmass residents began building the ice rink in 2009, led by Tom Yocum, whose kids play hockey and who’s also highly involved with the Snowmass Rodeo and wanted to see the grounds used more than just the 10 nights that the rodeo runs every summer. Resident Jack Rafferty, who also helped build the outdoor rink in Carbondale, brought his construction experience to the table.

Yocum, Rafferty and other volunteers maintained the ice for many years. Equipment was donated, and locals used the rink for everything from bonfires and parties to skating and scrimmaging at all hours of the day and night.

The volunteers eventually created a nonprofit for the rink, and residents Chuck and Marni Bond donated a Zamboni and boards in 2012. At that time, the nonprofit also began asking the town to contribute financially to the rink, and eventually elected officials decided it made more sense for the town to put its own staff in charge of the construction and operation of the amenity.

In some ways, the more organized schedule instated by the town has dampened some users’ enjoyment, given that there’s less flexibility with the hours, said Marni Bond, who remembers when her husband would go out to turn the lights off so people could play late into the night. In 2014, the Bonds offered to loan the town money to install a refrigeration system. Marni added that there’s been talk of a temporary bubble for the arena, too.

“The good news is, people can still skate in Snowmass,” she said.

Looking ahead

Part of the reason the town turned down the Bonds’ offer in 2014 was because it was launching a process to develop its long-term plan for all of its parcels in Town Park, including the rodeo grounds. This year, the town budgeted $51,128 toward the rink, which includes staff time, equipment and snow-removal expenses.

The entryway planning process made some headway last year with various public meetings but was largely put on the back burner while the town moved forward with the land-use review of the most recent Base Village application. Those amended plans, which won approval in December, include a seasonal ice rink for the core of Base Village.

While he sees that as a positive amenity, Yocum said he would still like to see the town invest in a rink that can be used for hockey. He envisions an enclosed, full-size rink that could host junior tournaments and other events, benefiting town coffers and local businesses and lodges.

“Hockey is becoming more popular,” Yocum said. “You could get pretty good competitions. That, I think, would be an asset.”

At the least, to consistently have good ice will require more investment, he said.

“I think an ice rink, to have it consistent so people can schedule it, is going to require some refrigeration,” he said.

For now, though, the homegrown ice rink that he helped start is still seeing lots of play.

jill@snowmasssun.com


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