The Hopkins Ice Rink opened to the public on Jan. 14, offering some old fashioned wintertime fun to those willing to brave the outdoor temperatures. In hopes of chilling out after a busy first week of classes, I tested out the skating scene with friends.
Located on site at the University’s tennis courts next to N. Charles Street, the rink is free of charge for students, faculty and the public. Registration is available online until Feb. 27, which is when the rink will close in preparation for the upcoming collegiate tennis season. Skating sessions can be booked in 90-minute blocks.
Though advertised as relatively straightforward on Instagram, the sign-up process ended up being slightly more complicated. Coordinating a get-to-together with my friends proved to be a slight hassle when trying to align our schedules with skating slots that vanished like Cyber Monday deals.
While the waivers themselves were not difficult to complete, several email reminders blew up my inbox with liability forms. After registering a few times, one of my skating partners instead marked my name down as an additional attendee while making reservations, saving me time and effort.
Once I got to the rink, filling out the documents beforehand streamlined the check-in process. Since I arrived late to my time slot, I was initially worried that the wait for skate rentals would eat into my already reduced ice time. Luckily for me, friendly organizers helped set me up with skates less than three minutes upon arrival. Since crowds tend to peak right at the beginning of each skate session, showing up either a bit early or even later helped avoid a long wait.
The arena itself was smaller compared to other rinks I had visited, yet school banners and lighting hung around the grounds made for a cozy, festive environment. Especially at night under snowfall, several attendees could be seen posing for photo ops under the wintry conditions. Ample seating and locker space also made it easy for both families and large groups to congregate together as they dressed up for the ice.
After strapping on my skates, it didn’t take me long to realize that the blades were pretty dull and the latches got stuck. One friend of mine ended up with scratches along her ankles because the plastic kept chafing against her legs. Luckily, since I wore long socks, I was able to come away unscathed with a little preplanning. A good number of visitors ended up bringing their own skates, which seemed to be the best move for those who were able to.
For those who never skated before, Hopkins did a good job to make the experience more accessible. Beyond staff that open the gates to the ice, new skaters could use skating aids in the form of plastic, blue seals, which served as an adorable distraction from the risks of splitting your skull open.
Based on observation, this turned out to be a much safer and enjoyable option than holding onto the railings. In fact, among the people I saw on the ice, no one else appeared to have a better time than the little kids racing past me, riding their marine animals saddle style. I saw fewer people fall at this arena than any other one I had gone to before. The ice itself was scuffed up but sturdy, which played a part in keeping accidents to a minimum.
Overall, the majority of attendees were students, but a good number of families and adults were also on the ice. The night time slots were more packed and filled with younger crowds.
After making return trips to the rink, I found that skating was most enjoyable when I went with larger groups of friends. Among my favorite activities to try out, forming conga lines and asking ‘pros’ to show me their tips for skating backwards kept me occupied with challenges.
Moreover, the opportunity seemed perfect for those who wanted to go couples skating, as several pairs of people could be seen holding hands on the ice. Strangers were more than happy to help take pictures for you to commemorate the occasion so long as you asked nicely.
Following each of these visits to the rink, I made it a point to stop by the concessions stand to get some warm sustenance in my body before a long trek back to my dorm. I was naturally disappointed to find out that “free refreshments” merely turned out to be the same prepackaged desserts offered by campus dining halls.
Upon examining the menu, I did end up finding some palatable options that were worth lining up for. Piping-hot hot chocolate thawed out my tongue from all the snowflakes caught earlier, though my taste buds were burned in my haste to gulp it down. The brownies and pretzels were both hearty, satisfying options, which my friends and I all preferred over the donut holes and chocolate chip cookies. Had I been skating anywhere else, I would have been willing to pay for the chocolate treats if I were not already doing so through my school meal plan.
In retrospect, my ice skating adventures may have been unusual after arriving on a tennis court and clicking through several emails, yet the memories I left with made the experience worth it. As long as you take advantage of the helpful staff, a solid cast of skating partners and a careful amount of hot cocoa, the rink serves as a perfect break for anyone, regardless of one’s skating expertise.