PORT ANGELES — The ice may be cold and inviting, but expect to pay a bit more for the hot chocolate warm up.
Now in its sixth season, Port Angeles’ Winter Ice Village opens on Friday with daily ice skating through Jan. 2. The temporary skating rink is located in a city parking lot at 121 W. First St. in central downtown.
Marc Abshire, executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which operates the ice village — the only one on the North Olympic Peninsula — said there would be few noticeable physical changes from previous years.
“The only thing new is we’re not changing anything for the first time,” he said. “Every year, we’ve done something new, but this year, there’s not a whole lot.”
Skating hours will be from noon to 9 p.m. with a break for ice resurfacing at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Daily admission, which includes skate rental, will be $15 for ages 13 and older and $10 for ages 3-12 with a $3 discount for those who bring their own skates. Senior, active military and family discounts also may be available at check-in.
Additionally, there is an all-ages season pass available for $150.
Children younger than 3 are not allowed on the ice.
“We’re not raising any (skate) prices, but we may charge more for hot chocolate, though,” Abshire said. “I guess the headline is ‘inflation hits the winter ice village’.”
Most prices at the “Snack Shack,” the village’s concession stand, will probably go up to keep up with the times.
“Everything at the Snack Shack has been $1, but it’s now going to be $2 because we really can’t lose money on our snacks anymore,” Abshire said. “And still, $2 is really cheap. Our hot chocolate is really worth it.”
All skaters are required to fill out a season-long liability waiver prior to entering the rink. Skaters can save time by filling out the waiver online at https://waiver.smartwaiver.com/w/5gczhzlmnvkyqxi76fnayi/web.
The Winter Ice Village depends upon volunteers to help keep the skates organized, the skaters safe, the ice smooth and to run the concession stand. Village volunteers receive skate time or other perks in exchange for their service. There are still many volunteer slots that need to be filled.
Leslie Robertson, events manager for the chamber of commerce, said volunteers are key components of the ice village operation.
“It’s really important for us to keep our prices where they are,” she said. “The only way we can do that and still afford to run the equipment that we do need to rent is if we have it staffed by volunteers.
“If we had to pay people for every staff position, we could not sustainably afford to do the rink,” she said. “It would just be too expensive.”
Robertson said the ice village did hire a volunteer manager to organize time slots and rink managers to take care of the technicalities of keeping the ice in good shape, but virtually every other job is done by people contributing their efforts.
Those who wish to donate their time can sign up in advance online at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A094EAFA82CA6FF2-39638224-winter#/.
“Our revenues from ticket sales established a new record before Christmas,” Abshire claimed. “Everything since Christmas, all this week, has been an add-on to the new record.”
The chamber of commerce owns the tent, rink sideboards, skates and skating aids and accompanying village buildings. The ice-making equipment and ice resurfacing machine are rented from California-based Ice America.
Abshire said the chamber has no plans to resurrect last summer’s experiment to use the village for roller skating. He cited a general lack of public interest in the endeavor — there was just too much competition from other summer activities on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“We’re hoping to make a bit of money (on ice skating) this year because we lost so much on the roller skating rink,” he said. “We were able to absorb some of the loss because we did make money on the ice rink last year.”
Ice skating turned a profit of about $20,000 during the 2022-23 season with 16,000 skater sessions, he said.
Pulling people out of the winter doldrums with an entertaining community activity in the downtown area was an important part of the mission, Abshire said.
“We’re just excited about doing it again,” he said. “It’s great to be back out here, not having to deal with COVID or anything. I think it’s going to be a warmer winter, and it’s really great to give people something to do in the wintertime.”
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.