In light of the lack of activities areas can experience once temperatures begin to dip, it comes as no surprise that places able to offer winter activities, such as ice rinks and arenas, offer various programming for both kids and adults.
For many families in the north country, once kids are old enough to stand on their skates, they’re out and learning to play ice sports like hockey or how to figure skate either competitively or as a fun pastime.
For those who prefer a slower pace and time to just enjoy skating, open skate opportunities can be found across the north country, allowing for hours to take a spin around the ice with friends and family. When the weather gets colder, outdoor rinks tend to pop up at parks to offer a more scenic skating experience.
One of the great things about skating is it’s never too late to start. Whether you’re seven years old or 70 it is a great form of exercise as well as fun. Two locations in the north country offering skating experiences for the public are the Forest Park Pavilion Ice Skating Rink at the Lewis County Fairgrounds, home of the Lewis County Amateur Hockey Association, and Cerow Recreation Park Arena in Clayton.
“Skating is something that you can do essentially at any age; my son is two and he’s on the ice,” said Angie Millard of the Lewis County Amateur Hockey Association. “And it’s something that you can always improve on; you can challenge yourself more if you want to or you can just do it because it’s relaxing.”
Mrs. Millard and her husband, Michael, became involved in the rent-a-skate program at the Lewis County rink with their children eight years ago. Three years later, they joined the board for the Hockey Association and started taking over the learn to skate and skating programs. From there, they became very involved in the entire skating rink. Mr. Millard is the president and Mrs. Millard the secretary of the hockey and skating programs.
Mrs. Millard leads the learn to skate program and coordinates beginner programs that give an intro to hockey and figure skating. In terms of the skating rink itself, the Millards work closely with the village and the rink monitors to oversee it all.
At the rink, skates are available for use free of charge, and public skating is also free.
“Technically our legal name is the Lewis County Amateur Hockey Association, but we feel that’s not really an appropriate name because we are much more than hockey,” Mrs. Millard said. “We strive to have free public skating, free skate rentals, and we try to keep any program costs as low as we can so that people can be involved.”
The rinks learn-to-skate program is for children ages two to twelve with groups meeting once a week to skate for an hour and play games, learn skills, and participate in various activities on the ice to teach kids the basic skills they need to become skaters and enjoy skating.
Public skating, open to anyone who wants to hit the ice, takes place every day. Each week, on Mondays it’s open from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Wednesday from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Over the weekends, the rink is open Fridays from 3:30 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 1 to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m.
Mrs. Millard said the rink is open air, housed in a pavilion, so it is a relatively safe activity to do even with COVID, and people are required to wear masks. She noted that the association is raising money to get a new part of the rink’s refrigeration system to allow it to be open even when the winter temperatures are a little on the warmer side, as they are always trying to come up with ways to allow people to skate longer in the winter.
“My grandfather was ice skating when he was 85 years old,” Mrs. Millard said. “It allows friends and families to come together, allows you to challenge yourself, but most of all it’s just fun.”
James Jones, recreation supervisor for Cerow Arena in Clayton, has been in the position since 2017. Retiring from the Army after 23 years, he was hired at the arena a month later.
He said from a fitness perspective, skating is great and the arena sees older individuals during open skate periods on weekdays while kids are at school. He shared that some come and skate every day.
“I’m from Texas and whenever I first got stationed at Fort Drum, this was my first duty station and my last duty station, there were too many soldiers that once the snow started flying around just spent the day in the barracks and didn’t get out at all,” he said. “But coming ice skating is a great way to actually get out and enjoy the winter sports and know that there’s other things to do besides nothing.”
The arena has a shoot and skate schedule from 10 to 11:30 a.m. every day during the week and public skate from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Weekend public skate times is where the arena sees mostly kids going out and enjoying the ice. Weekend hours for public skating are Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m.
“So much of our ice time is taken after school by figure skaters, youth and varsity hockey, that there’s really not time for public skate on weekdays,” Mr. Jones said.
Open skating costs $3 per person and while the rink does not offer skating lessons, Mr. Jones said youth hockey has a learn-to-skate program in the mornings on Saturdays.
The arena recently got a new addition that was completed in the spring of 2021, so it now offers five more locker rooms, an event room and showers, which it never had before. The concession area was also enlarged. There is also a pro shop available inside the arena, but at this time, the arena does not offer skate rentals.
Mr. Jones has looked into it a few times and said he thinks he will pull the trigger on the offseason this year and get some rental skates ready for next season.
“For our rink, based on the amount of clientele that we get, it’s not cost beneficial as much, but I’m going to try to make it work,” he said.
Some other places around the north country to check out and try your hand– or more accurately, legs– at ice skating include:
- Watertown Municipal Arena: Public skating is open daily, with skate rentals available for all ages from toddler to adult. 600 William T. Field Dr., Watertown
- Roos House SUNY Canton Ice Arena: Public skating and open hockey. 34 Cornell Drive, Canton
- Massena Arena: Home of youth, high school, collegiate and adult hockey teams as well as figure skating and other recreational programs. 180 Hart Haven Plaza, Massena
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