Ice skating starts at Asia’s biggest natural rink in Shimla

Bhanu P Lohumi

Tribune News Service

Shimla, December 16

Ice skating, the major winter attraction of Shimla, commenced today at Asia's biggest natural ice skating rink the in the Queen of Hills, ending the long wait of the sport lovers who were anxious to enjoy the thrill of sliding on ice.

The trial run held yesterday was successful and the ice skating session started today morning as mercury dropped below freezing point and about 20 skating enthusiasts braved piercing cold wave conditions and arrived at the rink, said Shimla Ice Skating Club secretary Bhuvnesh Banga.

While people shivered sitting near heaters at home, the skaters enjoyed the warmth of sliding on skates. Earlier, a red balloon hanging on the top of Town Hall Building in the heart of the city indicated that session is on but after the renovation of the building, the practice has been stopped and messages were sent to the members on a WhatsApp group, he said.

Clear sky with low temperatures during winter with minimum temperatures staying below 4 to 5 degrees Celsius is pre-requisite for ice skating.

"We were hoping for a good season as the Covid threat is not so grave this year compared to last year," said Mokshana, a Class VIII student. "It is the first day this season and I am really happy and thrilled to meet my friends here," said Garima, a Class X student.

Incidentally, 2020 was the centenary year of the club, established in 1920, but there were no celebrations and festivities and even the regular features like Gymkhana and carnival had to be skipped due to Covid pandemic. However, if weather permits, the skating carnival would be organised between December 25 and 31 and Gymkhana in the first week of January 2022, besides ice hockey championship, said Pankaj Prabhakar, an official of the club.

The membership charges for adults and juniors for fortnight to full season ranges from Rs 1,700 to Rs 3,000 and Rs 900 to Rs 1,800, respectively. Casual staking charges per session for tourists are Rs 300. Skates are available for members at Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 with a security deposit of Rs 3,000.

This year, the area of skating rink, which is equal to the size of five tennis courts (58 mts X 30 mts) has shrunk temporarily by almost 10 per cent as a lift from Lakkar Bazaar to Mall Road is being constructed under the Shimla Smart City Mission right at the entry of the rink.

The season normally starts in the last week of November or early December. Last year, the ice skating season started on December 17 and ended on February 7 with 86 sessions. There are about 300 regular members of the club. Earlier, the minimum number of 12 sessions of ice skating were held in 1972 while the maximum 118 were held in 1996-97.

The history of the club dates back to 1920 when tennis courts were converted into a natural ice skating rink by Irish military official Blessington. In the winter months, when he sprinkled water on the tennis court to settle the grass, it froze within seconds and he immediately thought of converting the arena into an ice skating rink.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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