Outdoor skating is a winter tradition that's worth the wait
The holidays are over, but there’s still plenty of winter left to celebrate.
It’s the perfect time to head outside and hit the ice at any of the outdoor skating rinks in the region. If Old Man Winter sends a little chill our way, that is.
Those rinks that were open for public sessions from Christmas to New Year’s are returning to their regular schedules in January, which include ice-skating lessons, ice hockey programs and special events.
Never tied up a pair of skates or ventured onto the ice?
No worries, these rinks have got you covered — for skating lessons and skate rentals.
Children as young as 4 can get in on the fun, according to the experts, learning the basics from instructors at free and paid group lessons at the rinks.
North and South Park ice rinks
“Young kids are fearless,” says Mike Sedota, developmental program coordinator at South Park Ice Rink. “They like to get out and try something new.”
He says the key to teaching youngsters who are learning to skate is to limit their ice time, so they’re still having fun by the time the lesson is done. Teaching sessions range from 35 to 40 minutes twice a week to a half-hour once a week for Tiny Tots (ages 3-7) classes. Skate rentals are available, and participants must bring and wear a helmet.
Sedota recommends that parents consider renting skates until their children demonstrate an interest in perfecting their skills and don’t give up on the sport after only a few lessons.
Both Sedota at South Park and Paul Kasunich at North Park are involved in the county parks’ ice hockey programs for ages 4-13 through Allegheny County’s Developmental Hockey League.
For ages 4-9, Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation provide the opportunity to learn the basics of skating and hockey in a relaxed, noncompetitive atmosphere through their “Give Hockey a Shot” program.
An annual special event, “Pens in the Park,” scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 26 at South Park Skating Rink, offers a day of hockey and family fun with regular rink admission. Kids can try on hockey equipment and skate with former Pittsburgh Penguins player and Stanley Cup Champion Tyler Kennedy. There also will be face-painting, balloon art and food at the event.
“I started playing hockey at North Park years ago,” Kasunich says. “That’s why I’m involved with the hockey program, to help other young people learn the game.”
Regular admission prices for Allegheny County residents are $5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors; Winter Fun Wednesdays Family Skate from 4:30 to 6 p.m. is $10 per family (two adults, up to four children 17 or younger).
Details: Registration for ice skating and hockey programs at North and South Park are at alleghenycounty.us
Mass Mutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink at PPG Place
One of the season’s most festive spots in the city is at Mass Mutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink at PPG Place, where skaters glide around a massive decorated Christmas tree. The tree will remain in place through mid-January, according to officials, so there’s still time to enjoy the wintry scene and the rink’s special projected lighting effects that display the ice in different colors.
Lunchtime monthly passes are available in January and February for $25 and are valid from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. January discounts include Tuesday Family Nights with one child admission free with each adult admission purchased and Wednesday Student Nights with discounted $3 admission with a valid student ID or report card.
Upcoming special events include an annual Princess Skate from 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 27 and a Super Hero Skate from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 9. Admission is $14 adults, $13 kids, including skate rental. No advance reservations are needed except for 10 or more.
Skating lessons are available for all ages and ability levels. Winter hours are in effect through March 3 with special holiday hours on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21) and President’s Day (Feb. 18).
Details: Admission is $10 adults, $9 for 12 and younger, 50 and older and military with ID; skate rental is $4. 412-394-3641 or ppgplace.com
Schenley Park Skating Rink
Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park Skating Rink, 10341 Overlook Drive, Schenley Park, Oakland, celebrates its 44th anniversary in 2019. One of the rink’s most anticipated annual events is its Mascot Skate, to be held Jan. 12, when favorite Pittsburgh-area mascots pose for photographs and skate alongside their fans from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Adults-only special events include Disco Night from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. Feb. 2 and Valentines on Ice from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 14; Adults Only Sessions are 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Family Skates are from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. College ID sessions are from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 7 to 9 p.m. Sundays, when admission is $4 with valid college ID.
Regular admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and veterans, and $3 for 17 or younger. Skate rental is $3 and skate sharpening is $5.
Details: 412-422-6523 or pittsburghpa.gov
Boyce Park SnowFest
Those not quite ready to take to the ice but who want to have a fun winter’s day outdoors can attend the fifth annual SnowFest at Allegheny County’s Boyce Park, with events scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 26.
Boyce Park in Plum, which features the county’s only downhill skiing and snow-tubing hills, plans a day filled with indoor and outdoor games and activities, including snowshoeing with the park rangers, snowboard races and Mini-Junior Olympics for ages 5-12, with special all-day lift tickets for skiing and snowboarding.
Registration opens at 1 p.m. for the Cardboard Box Snow Tubing Derby. Entry fee is $10, which benefits the Boyce Park Ski Patrol, or $5 and a canned good to be donated to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Entrants will construct a sled out of their own cardboard and duct tape and race it down the snow-tubing hill.
Age groups are 15 and younger and 16 and older. All participants must be at least 50 inches tall and sign a waiver; parents or legal guardians must sign waivers for participants 17 and younger. Prizes will be given to the top three finishers in each age category. A Mascot Meet Greet will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., and the Mascot Snow Tubing Races will be at 4:30.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.