Friday, July 8, 2011

Polar Ice, or The Day We Managed Not to Injure Ourselves Spectacularly

If you know me, you know I come from a clumsy family. A pathologically clumsy family. I've shut my head in a car door multiple times. My brother did that rake-in-the-head thing for real. My sister fell out of a tree and slashed her leg open. (I fell out of a tree too, and broke my arm into a bunch of pieces, but I already made fun of myself.)

Sadly for him, my son is continuing our storied tradition of brain-body miscommunication. Nevertheless, I decided to go ice skating with him last month. Our experience, published in this month's Times Publications, follows.


This month, I thought it would be a good idea to take a mother-son trip for a little exercise, cool temperatures, bruised legs, and bruised egos. We went ice skating for the first time.

Every family has a legacy. Some families or bake. Others are great story tellers. In my family, we have a legacy of supreme klutziness. Skating of any kind brings it out. My two main memories involving skating as a kid were shuffling slowly forward in Fisher Price skates, and my dad “helping” my little sister skate by falling on her as he tried (ineptly) to skate, all six and a half feet of him towering (and running) over her.

Ice skating? Please. Adding a hard slippery surface to what's already a gamble of an outing at best -- right. My one and only real attempt to ice skate, while visiting family in Western New York, treated me to the demoralization that is watching three-year-olds zip by on ice skates while I barely remain upright. (OK, fine. I didn't remain upright.)

Still, it always looks so fun, and it’s an awesome way to cool off. I figured, maybe I’ve magically gotten better! And I was sure my son, David, would love it. We dug out some warm clothing, and set off for Polar Ice Gilbert.

The ice rink, located in Gilbert’s Crossroads Park, is one of the chain’s three. They have locations in Chandler and Peoria as well, and all three have regular public skating hours in addition to parties, school trips, hockey camps and more. We checked the calendar before heading out, as public skating hours vary, and nabbed an afternoon session.

Walking from a 107-degree-day to a blast of air in the 50s was nearly worth the price of admission on its own. Still, David looked dubious as we got our skates and headed for the South Pole (their public skating rink; the “North Pole” had a hockey team practicing).

I shoved his feet in the skates and buckled them in. He stared at me, unmoving.

My son is a trooper. He can hike, rock climb, swim, and help me catch scorpions. However, the prospect of standing on two blades strapped to his feet was too much for a moment. I strapped on my own skates and walked around to show him. He slowly stood up. I exaggerated how easy it was to lope around in skates. (This may have been a mistake, since my little display nearly sent me careening into a group of small children. At least I'm not six and a half feet tall.)

He took a few hesitant steps.

Figuring that was the best I would get for the moment, I stowed our things in a locker and dragged/led him to the ice. We stepped out on the ice, I slowly glided forward, and he clutched the wall, refusing to move an inch.

There were skaters of every skill level imaginable around us. Kids about three or four zoomed by like pros, groups of teens and adults skated by in a cautious glide, a girl in the center of the rink showed off Axel jumps. And, perhaps because this is the desert and we’re not all born ice skaters, several other skaters clutched the wall or their companions. Nearly everyone -- except those kids and the figure skater -- fell at least once that I saw.

David decided he would venture out in phases. First, it was all wall-clutching lurching. Then, he let go of the wall, but only if I held his hand. (I tried to tell him holding MY hand wasn’t exactly his best bet.) Finally, he shuffled, incrementally, until he’d skated a full revolution on his own. He was ecstatic.

Then he fell. I cringed.

Amazingly, this made him feel better. He fell -- the thing he’d be dreading -- and he was perfectly fine. From there, he took off.

Well, he did if you can call “gliding forward at the speed of a geriatric tortoise” taking off. The point is, he loved it. He ending up completing ten full revolutions on his own (he kept careful count). He fell three times. I fell once, much to his delight. And we had a blast.

So, fine, we probably won’t start a family tradition of grace and figure skating prowess. But, in the words of my son “This was just as fun as the water park, and even more exciting!” I think that’s a ringing endorsement.


Ice skating in the Valley

Check out one of the rinks below for a fun break from the heat. (Pubic skating times vary at many locations, so call ahead or check the website for hours before visiting.)

Polar Ice

$8.50 ages 13 and older, $7.50 ages 12 and under; skate rental $3.50.

Chandler: 7225 W Harrison St.
(480) 598-9400

Gilbert: 2305 E Knox Rd.
(480) 503-7080

Peoria: 15829 N 83rd Ave.
(623) 334-1200

Alltel Ice Den

$7 adults, $5 seniors/ages 6-15 (skate rental extra), $5 ages 5 and under (includes skate rental); $4 skate rental; $3 skate trainers for children.

9375 E Bell Rd., Scottsdale
(480) 585-RINK (7465)

Oceanside Ice Arena

$7 adults, $5 ages 17 and under; $3 skate rental.

1520 N McClintock Dr., Tempe
(480) 941-0944

Arcadia Ice Arena

$8 adults, $7 ages 12 and under; skate rental included.

3853 E Thomas Rd., Phoenix
(602) 957-9966