My earliest memory of ice skating is fragmented: pulling cold, hard leather over warm toes; discovering new muscles to stand up, then move; my parents shouting advice as I stumbled by. There was no ice skating in the small desert town where I grew up. I was 15 the first time I took the ice, on a family vacation to the Midwest. Circling the ice in the center of an indoor mall felt both exotic and classical, and I loved every minute of it.
I wanted my 15-year-old stepdaughter to know this feeling too, so I took her to the Las Vegas Ice Center on Flamingo and Durango during a Friday-night open skate. Teenagers packed the darker of two large rinks, flirting and falling down to loud house music. In the second, brighter rink, a hockey game unfolded to occasional cheers. The game was ultimately more interesting to my stepdaughter than going around in a circle holding the rail—maybe because none of her friends had been up for the date.
She agreed to give it a second try, though, this time recruiting a friend to go along. We headed to the SoBe Ice Arena at Fiesta Rancho on a Thursday afternoon just before Christmas. Its walls hung with tinsel and neat aluminum bleachers were a contrast to the boyish messiness and locker-room smell of the Las Vegas Ice Center. Girls in sequined tights twirled to old-fashioned Christmas carols, some apparently rehearsing for the holiday show taking place later that evening. My stepdaughter asked to go back the following week and added skates to her gift wish list. Success!
This has been a good winter for skating in the desert. In addition to the two year-round rinks we visited, three high-profile seasonal rinks have expanded the Valley’s ice awareness. The floating rink at Lake Las Vegas’ Montelago Village returned for its fourth year, the Venetian’s artificial ice returned for a second season, and the Cosmopolitan debuted its rink at the rooftop Boulevard Pool. The two Strip locations have done significant local advertising, and the Lake Las Vegas rink has become a popular winter escape for eastside families.
The question is whether these seasonal spots can help push ice skating into the mainstream. When the holiday rinks close later this month, will people who discovered the ice be tempted, like my stepdaughter, to join the ranks of figure skaters and hockey players who frequent the year-round rinks?
They should be. You don’t have to be a skilled skater to enjoy a cool open-skate session in June, when it’s 110 degrees outside. For kids in particular, summer vacation brings limited options for putting down the electronics, getting out of the house and moving around. Ice skating could help fight both boredom and obesity—but only if it becomes more than a once-in-a-childhood memory.