PORT ANGELES — It’s difficult to think of it as a “winter” ice village when the weather is acting more like summer.
Skating season at the North Olympic Peninsula’s only skating rink ends today, appropriately enough, with the possibility of summer apparel on the ice.
The last skating sessions are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
After that, it’s time to strike the set.
A week of above-average temperatures and summer-like conditions has contrasted with the frozen temporary skating rink in a city-owned parking lot in the 100 block of West Front Street in downtown Port Angeles.
Marc Abshire, executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the village, said the recent stretch of warm weather was an ideal way to bring the season to a close.
“It’s a really unique experience to be skating in shorts and shirt sleeves,” he said. “We have ice and our chiller is keeping up with it.”
The third year of the winter skating season was cancelled in 2020 because of restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But with eased distancing guidelines, a shortened four-week spring season became possible.
Abshire said the chamber might break even on the shortened season — or perhaps suffer a slight monetary loss — but he added that offering the ice experience was important to the community.
“I’m really happy to have been able to provide this for the kids, and we’ve had a LOT of kids skating here,” he said. “If they didn’t have masks on, we would see their smiles.”
According to data collected through the event’s liability waiver system, more than 6,000 skaters took part in the 4-week season. The same waiver system indicated that more than 800 skaters came from outside of Clallam County with about 150 coming from out of state, Abshire said. About 200 came from Jefferson County.
Leslie Robertson, Chamber of Commerce events manager, said attendance was slightly less than projected, but she added that her organization had no regrets.
“We had hoped to be busier than we were, but it’s been really great,” she said. “People have been so happy to have something to do, to come out, to feel safe, to feel healthy.
“From that standpoint, it’s been wonderful and I feel like we’ve really given the community something they’ve been missing.”
On Saturday, Stephanie Dickinson of Sequim was donning a pair of skates with her daughter, 4-year-old Raelynn Dickinson. The elder Dickinson said it was their fourth time to skate this season.
“We really like it,” Stephanie Dickinson said. “My daughter gets more confidence every time we come. And it gives us something to do since everything else is closed right now.”
There are plans to return the Winter Ice Village to a regular holiday schedule this fall, beginning the week before Thanksgiving and ending in early January. Included would be holiday lights, Christmas trees and other seasonal decorations that marked previous years.
Abshire said the return of skating for the fall/winter season would likely bring with it a change in the price structure for skating sessions. The spring sessions ranged from $5 in the morning to $15 for afternoon and evening skating, which included skate rental.
Reduced price morning sessions were developed to encourage people to skate at times that were less popular, thus avoiding a crowded rink during the evening.
“The difference between $5 and $15 is something I didn’t anticipate,” Abshire said. “It turns out that $15 is actually a really good price for skating for several hours.
“But when you have a $5 ticket available, it made the $15 seem expensive to people. There was too big of a disparity between $5 and $15.”
Deeply discounted morning skating may be eliminated when the village returns in November, but Abshire said the chamber was considering family admission discounts to help make up for it.
“That’s what this is about — making it accessible to people,” he said.
One observation Abshire offered about local skaters was that as time goes on, they’ve gradually become more skillful and less awkward on the ice.
“In the first season, we noticed a lot of falls. People just didn’t know how to skate,” he said. “But now, we’re in our third season and we’ve got skaters in Port Angeles. We’ve got people that are actually very good at skating now.”
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at [email protected]