For summer visitors and residents alike, a trip to the Sun Valley ice rink is a must. Ice skaters of all ages, and all capabilities, can glide on ice under the Idaho summer sun or nighttime stars. For serious skaters or mere beginners, the Sun Valley Skating Center has a complete summer program with coaching by pros, including many former Olympians.
There is an indoor rink and ballet studio, but the big draw is the enormous outdoor rink, the only one in the U.S that is open year-round. It draws major skating stars who appear in Saturday night ice shows, and it draws lots of young aspiring skaters, who make a day out of skating and hanging with their friends.
It’s no secret that Sun Valley is a gorgeous place, but the ice rink is even more so. The outdoor rink faces picturesque Sun Valley Lodge on one side and the gorgeous mountains on the other. It has a specially-made “roof” that can keep the ice shady on hot days.
This is the 7lst season for the rink, says Cory Lovoi, manager and skating director. Lovoi has a core of 10 local pros and hires another 20 for the summer program. “People come here from all over the country for summer because most rinks close when it’s warm outside . . . they’ll have just a fall, winter and spring season. We have a good mix of people, some who want to make it a life sport. Then we have other people who train seriously for competition.”
Meeting the standards of pro skaters and the needs of beginners, the school manages a first-class experience for everyone, a program that has evolved considerably from the first skate shows held in the late ’30s, as described on the website of sunvalley.com. In the early years, only a few pros came for the Sun Valley ice shows . . . and the rest of the cast were guests or young resort employees, who were “given a costume, a pair of skates and instructions that were often as sketchy as, ‘just move around!’”
Lovoi says while most of the major ice show stars participate in special clinics, the key to making it a great experience is the large and highly qualified staff of teachers. He happily ticks off the names of a few, all of them once Olympic stars: Linda Fratianne, Judy Blumberg, partners Margarita Droviazko and Povilas Vanagas and Jozef “Jumpin’ Joe” Sabovcik.
Young skaters also benefit by meeting new people. “I have some friends from Canada that come in each year, and I look forward to seeing them,” says 10-year-old skater Devon Sherrerd. “And it’s fun to cheer for your friends in the competition.” The competition is one of two big summer skating events.
Julianna Lamb, 13, has been skating for eight years and has been taking Summer Skating School classes for six, participating in the annual summer competition each year. Recently honored as the National Intermediate Showcase Champion, she says, “I like performing, and then winning.”
Some of the popular classes are Theatre on Ice, Creative Development, and Show Skating. Some classes, like Theatre on Ice and Show Skating, are taught by one teacher all summer long, but others, like Creative Development, have a rotating staff. Each week, a new skater will teach the class, so that the students can get a fresh eye on their skating. Saturday morning seminar classes are conducted by a selected coach who focuses on a specific move or area of the sport, such as figures, or spins or spirals.
Skaters from out of town often take advantage of specialty coaches, like Craig Heath, a choreographer for Disney on Ice. “I teach spins, jumps and motivation,” says Heath. He performs in the Saturday night ice shows, along with most other coaches.
The shows are a good opportunity for students to see how their hard work could pay off. They can see their coaches performing, as well as world-famous competitors like Scott Hamilton and Sasha Cohen.
Cohen is an annual visitor to Sun Valley, and says, “It is definitely my favorite place to skate. It’s just so beautiful.” When she was at the Novice level, she even skated in the annual competition. “I would definitely recommend it to other skaters. It’s just a great place to train, and come in the summer. It’s a nice change from always skating indoors.”
Her view on the ice rink is shared by many others, including Heath, who says that it’s a great place for young skaters to come and learn because, “It’s such a unique environment for kids to skate in.” Local buses have stops in the Village, so kids can take the bus to the ice rink, and get almost anywhere in town from the stop. [Lovoi notes that though Sun Valley is a very safe environment, parents of younger children should be at the rink to keep an eye on them.]
There are several places to eat within a quarter mile of the ice rink, such as the Sun Valley Deli, the Konditorei, Bald Mountain Pizza, and the ever-popular Chocolate Foundry.
In addition to the Sun Valley Summer Championships, the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club sponsors a fashion show each summer, called “Fashions on Ice.” Local merchants outfit the students, who model the clothes, then wear them to perform.
As with everything in the summer program, skaters of any age are allowed to participate, from three to 85. And though some classes or clinics may be filled up early, Lovoi says, you can still find a space even in midsummer.