By Bella Butler EBS EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
BIG SKY – The time has come to dust off the skates and hit the ice. The outdoor rink at Town Center, which has become a winter staple in Big Sky, opened its gates Thanksgiving Day, kicking off yet another season of sport, play and community gathering.
The Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association will present a menu of activity options, including kid’s hockey clinics, a 3-on-3 hockey league, a curling league, hockey camps and a drop-in curling clinic taught by the Bozeman Curling Club.
The BSSHA will also host the 10th annual Pavelich Invitational game, where local hockey athletes will compete in honor of Big Sky local and former Detroit Red Wings left winger Marty Pavelich, who also serves on the BSSHA board.
Jeff Trulen, BSSHA board member, said the association will focus on continuing and expanding programs and efforts already in place at the rink. “The goal is to accommodate everyone in a growing community,” Trulen said.
In addition to swelling crowds on the ice, many of BSSHA’s programs are showing increased numbers of participants. The 3-on-3 hockey league, a local favorite, will field nearly double the number of teams than it did last year. The curling league, which is set up similarly to summer softball with an end-of-season tournament, has 24 teams signed up in its third year.
Last season, the rink was upgraded with a new chilling system thanks to grassroots funding and a matching $195,000 grant from the Big Sky Resort Area District tax board. The chilling system allows for more consistent ice of a higher quality throughout fluctuating weather patterns, but it brings challenges of its own in its experimental early stages of use.
“Keeping and maintaining ice in an outside atmosphere is hard,” Trulen said. “Nobody does it anymore. We’re a unicorn.” Being an anomaly has its perks, too. Outdoor space allows for ample room for spectating, and there is nothing quite like skating under falling snow with Lone Mountain as a backdrop.
For those not sporting their own gear, skates can be rented near the rink at either East Slope Outdoors or Grizzly Outfitters.