A sign of the season: Ice skaters celebrate winter’s arrival

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Observer photo by Susan Beach
People skate on the ice rink at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.

Skating Rinks

Visit the following Web sites for public session schedules, admission costs and directions.

Sculpture Garden Ice-Skating Rink
Fort Dupont Ice Arena
Fairfax Ice Arena
The Gardens Ice House
Cabin John Ice Rink

By SUSAN BEACH

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 – Winter is the time for snowflakes, hot cocoa and ice skating. No one can guarantee snow in the city, but the area does have plenty of hot drinks and skating rinks.

Modern sculpture and historic buildings surround the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s ice-skating rink downtown, on Constitution Avenue between Ninth and Seventh streets N.W. The columned National Archives Building frames one end of the outdoor rink, and at the other end is a view of the Smithsonian Castle’s towers.

A crowd of people ranging in age and skating skills whizzed and slogged steadily around the rink on a recent afternoon. Piped-in music softened the sounds of the city traffic. Holiday songs, such as “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley and “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, followed one after another.

Old-style lampposts and strings of twinkling white lights illuminate the rink beginning at dusk.

Skater Brittany Cook, of Chesapeake, Va., said she enjoyed the romantic atmosphere of the rink. “I see things in the movies and I always want to experience them, especially the romantic things. I want that to be part of my life,” she said.

Philip Weber, a visitor to the District, drank coffee and watched skaters from the wide stone walkway circling the rink. He planned to meet friends there and said they might go skating.

Weber said the rink has a small-town charm similar to something he experienced in Denver, Colo. “We used to go to the park when the lake would freeze over,” he said.

Weber appreciated the Greek-style columns of the surrounding buildings. “You don’t feel like you’re in the middle of a city. You feel like you’re someplace else,” he said.

Leslie Thompson walked down the ramp from the rink after skating with her fiance and children. “This is good exercise and something fun to do with your children,” she said.

“It’s pretty,” her daughter added.

Nearby, people sat at tables in the Pavilion Cafe, where they could watch skaters through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The cafe serves salads, sandwiches and drinks, including hot chocolate.

Many indoor rinks are located in and around the city.

Fort Dupont Ice Rink in the southeast section of the city has welcomed a recent increase in the number of skaters at public sessions, even though the indoor rink is open year-round. “We’ve seen more people skating as the weather gets cold because they think of it as a winter sport,” said Kathy Cox, executive director. But she said ice skating is a good summer sport, too, especially when it is “burning hot” outside.

Many skaters bring their own skates (rentals are available) and some have long-blade speed skates. “We have a big speed-skating crowd,” Cox said. The rink also is home base for the AU Lady Eagles and D.C. Police ice hockey teams.

The Fairfax Ice Arena in Virginia is bustling with figure skaters, hockey leagues and crowds at public sessions. “This is our season,” said Gary Cocuzzi, director of lessons at the rink. “When it’s cold out, people want to ice skate,” he said.

The pro shop is selling a holiday gift special that packages a pair of skates with lessons. The Holiday Ice Show at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 23, will highlight the moves students learn in those lessons.

On New Year’s Day, the public is invited to skate for free from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at The Gardens Ice House, a three-rink complex with a separate curling center in Laurel, Md. On that day, skaters can glide in skates borrowed from the rink at no charge as well. “We put the skate sizes on a table and bring the hot cocoa out,” said Nikki Goldschmitt, front desk supervisor.

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