Soft skates take pain out of learning

City ice arena offers large blocks of public ice time during holidays

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Everyone can ice skate 'till their heart's content at the Howelsen Ice Arena from today through New Year's Day. The winter break skating schedule is in effect -- public-skate hours are long, new rental skates are comfortable and the rink's atmosphere is festive.

"The more the merrier over the holidays. We're staffed, we're decorated, we're ready," said Stacey Foster, Howelsen Ice Arena manager.

Foster encourages people to drop by for a twirl around the rink at any time during scheduled public-skate sessions. She said open-skate sessions are scheduled in blocks lasting as long as eight and nine hours intended to make it convenient for the public.

"You can just skate as much as you like," Foster said.

The whole skating experience should be a lot more comfortable this year, Foster said. The rink's new lobby is warm and decorated for the holidays, she said. There are vending machines with hot chocolate, and the rink is renting "soft skates" -- skates that have soft, flexible boots unlike the stiff, uncomfortable ice skates most people remember renting in years gone by, she said.

"The soft skates make for a better experience," Foster said.

And beginners can be assured they won't be left out in the cold. Skate guards who patrol the rink are trained to give helpful skating advice to anyone they see clutching the boards.

Even the littlest of skaters can get in on the action. The ice arena rents sleds that can be pulled across the ice with small children in tow.

"Ice skating is so fun to do with your family," Foster said.

Public skate sessions cost $5.25 for adults, $4.75 for 6- to 18-year-olds, $3 for seniors 50 and older and free for children 5 and younger. Ice skate rentals cost $3 per pair.

Hockey players of all ages and abilities also can jump in on the Howelsen Ice Arena's hockey drop-in sessions designed for families, women, seniors and assorted skill levels. Schedules and more information about drop-in hockey are available from the ice rink's information line at 879-0341.

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