Free Ice Skating Returns to Robson Square

Time to lace up the skates.  Today is the official opening of the ice rink at Robson Square (even though it’s actually been open to skaters since last Thursday).

It’s completely free to use, though it will cost you $4 if you need to rent a pair of ice skates, plus $2 for a helmet.  Both are free, however, for kids 12 and under.  The rink is open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, with extended hours to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.  It will remain in operation until February.

If you haven’t checked out the rink yet, it’s more or less Vancouver’s equivalent of New York’s Rockefeller Center Ice Rink (except it will cost you $19 to use that one). The setting really can’t be topped.  The rink is sunk below street level right in the heart of the city at Robson Square.  It’s open-air, but partially covered by glass domes that let in light and keep it cold when temperatures outside are above freezing.

The amazing thing to me is that you can throw on a pair of skates right in the middle of downtown, surrounded by the Vancouver Art Gallery, the big Sears building and the bustle of busy Robson Street. I checked out the action over the weekend and it looked like a lot of fun.

In contrast to the big crowds during the Olympics two year ago (when 1.5 million people bladed across the ice), the rink wasn’t crowded at all.  A group of school kids was whizzing around the ice, chasing each other and crashing into the walls.  For beginners, there are plastic walkers to use, which slide across the ice and make the experience a lot more pleasant.  At one point, a Zamboni cruised out onto the rink, cleaning up the ice and leaving it mirror-perfect.

The ice rink has an interesting past.  It was opened in the 1980s but then closed in 2001 because of budget restrictions.  It finally reopened in 2009 after $2 million in repairs and upgrades.  And, despite the fact that it’s free to use, it costs the city $560,000 to operate every year.

Anyone been to the Robson Square rink this year?  How’s the ice? 

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