Get your skates on the ice in Shimla

By Vishal Gulati, IANS
Saturday, November 20, 2010

SHIMLA - As the chill sets in timely this winter, it brings along with it the sublime promise of fun-filled skating sessions again in Asia’s only natural ice skating rink in Shimla that came up 90 years ago.

Authorities of the Ice Skating Club that came up in 1920 said this year the sessions are likely to be more in number as compared to previous years.

“We are hopeful of a good number of skating sessions this winter. They would start well ahead of last year’s first session,” the club’s secretary Bhuvnesh Banga told IANS.

Last winter the first session was held Nov 27 and there were 77 sessions in all.

“A thin sheet of ice has started surfacing. As the Met department predicts crystal-clear skies in the next few days, there are chances of further dip in the night temperature,” he added.

The club authorities sprinkle water on the clay ground of the rink which freezes under natural conditions.

According to the meteorological office here, Shimla recorded a low of 5.8 degrees Celsius Saturday against Thursday’s 8 degrees. It was 5.4 degrees Friday.

Meteorological office director Manmohan Singh said the town recorded moderate rainfall that increased humidity levels in the past two days.

“When the sky is cloudy, the night temperature generally rises. After two days of cloudy formations, the sky will remain clear in the next few days. This means the minimum temperature will plummet further,” he said.

“The high humidity level will enable the water to freeze quickly,” he added.

Irish military official Blessington, who resided in Shimla, got the idea of setting up a natural ice skating rink.

One day he inadvertently kept a bucket of water outside his residence and found in the morning that it had frozen. It gave him the idea of a skating rink and he created a small one of his own.

Blessington also trained his Indian servants in the art of sprinkling water on clay ground that freezes under natural conditions.

The club has created a record of hosting 165 sessions in 1960-61. However, in the early 1980s the sessions ranged from 110 to 120.

In 2008-09, only 27 sessions were held - the lowest in the club’s history. Forty-six sessions were held in 2007-08.

“The year 2008-09 was quite bad for skating due to abnormally high temperatures. Most of the sessions in that year were held only in December,” Banga said.

Octogenarian ice-skating champion Madan Lal Sharma, residing in the town for more than 75 years, said: “We hope to enjoy some good skating sessions this year too.”

The club has started the registration of members for skating. “We are charging Rs.600 per child and Rs.1,200 per adult for the entire season,” a club official said.

Even the tourists can enjoy skating by paying Rs.100 for a session. The fee includes provision of skates by the club.

The club holds two sessions in a day - 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. - depending on the ice formation.

The Ice Skating Club is affiliated to the Ice Skating Association of India and the Winter Games Federation of India. The first national ice-skating championship was organised here by the Indian Olympic Association in 2000.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at

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