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New ice surface sparkles for family fun in village

free skating up and running at olympic plaza
Blades of Glory Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden (right) takes a lap of the ice path at Whistler Olympic Park on Tuesday, Dec. 20, with members of the Whistler Skating Club. photo by joern Rohde

Tanya George's three kids can count themselves among the first to skate on Whistler's new village ice rink.

Leaning over her five-year-old daughter's pink skates, and lacing them tighter — "that one's too tight mommy" — George was pleased to see the rink in the heart of the village. Her twin eight-year-old boys were already zipping around the surface, down the ice track and back under the pavilion, smiles all around.

"It's awesome," said the Vancouver mom, whose family comes to Whistler often. "It's a great idea."

The 6,900 square foot rink (that's including the 2,800 square foot windy track), officially opened Tuesday with Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in skates cutting the red ribbon helped by five young members of the Whistler Skating Club.

"I can't tell you how many times we've discussed having an outdoor skating rink here in Whistler and now we finally have one," said the mayor before cutting the ribbon in front of dozens of community members.

She took a few turns around the ice, holding hands with husband Ted Morden, as kids made a beeline to be first on the ice. Other members of Wilhelm-Morden's new team were there, including Councillor John Grills who also laced up his skates.

Though current council now takes the credit for the rink opening, it was the previous council who approved the pilot project as one of the last orders of its official business before last month's election.

"This is going to be so good for Whistler just with the extra thing to do on days when you don't want to go up the hill," said the mayor afterwards. "It's under cover so it's protected for the most part, protected from the elements which was always a challenge when talking about outdoor skating so this is great."

As the Christmas music played, skaters got their first feel of the organic compound that makes up the artificial ice.

There's room for about 70 to 80 people on the ice at any one time, according to staff estimates, and it functions in up to 10 degrees Celsius.

It cost $487,700 — $100,000 of that is for operating, staffing and electricity.

The money comes from the provincial grant money known as Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding, totaling $7.5 million this year.

"I think this is exactly what the RMI funds were meant to be spent on," said Dave Buzzard, former council candidate.

Whistler Blackcomb executive Doug Forseth said the ice rink adds to the amenities for families in Whistler, something that's getting better and better over the years.

"I think the families are finding more to do here, which is a good thing," he said. "We need families. We want them to be welcome here and feel comfortable and to feel like their kids are going to have a great holiday. That'll bring them back."

The rink is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then again from 6 to 9 p.m. It closes in the afternoon for ice resurfacing and to keep costs down. There are special hours over the Christmas season. On Christmas Day the rink will be open from noon to 4 p.m. On Saturday Dec. 31 it will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then from 7 to 11 p.m. for ticket holders with the Whistler Presents – New Years Eve Celebration.