Shimla (Dec 28): Chilling weather conditions in the ‘Queen of Hills’, as Shimla was fondly called by the British, has brought warmth in hearts of ice skaters as the town’s 90-year-old ice skating rink is all set to host the national skating championship next week.
Simla (as the name spelled by the British) Ice Skating Club secretary Bhuvnesh Banga told HimVani on Tuesday: “The Ice Skating Association of India has decided to host three-day national ice skating championship this year in Shimla from January 3.”
He said last year the meet was held in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir. “Clear weather with extremely low temperatures this winter has provided ideal conditions for water to freeze naturally in the rink. As a result, 37 skating sessions have been held so far and two more months are still to go,” he added. More than 75 skaters from across the country are expected to participate in speed skating and figure skating events. “The events will be held in three categories – sub-junior, junior and senior,” Banga said.
The skating rink was set up by Irish military official Blessington, who inadvertently kept a bucket of water outside his residence one day and found in the morning that it had frozen. This 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. Club authorities said crystal-clear skies are ideal for natural formation of ice. “If the sky is cloudy, the night temperature rises and if it’s clear, the temperature dips. The high humidity level enables the water to freeze quickly,” they said.
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 and 77 in 2009-2010.
Meenakshi Bhanot, a young skater based here, said: “We are praying to the weather god that the sky will remain clear during the championship so that a thick layer of ice surfaced every morning.” The skating club routinely holds two sessions a day – 8 am to 11 am and 5.30 pm to 8 pm, depending on the ice formation. Even tourists can enjoy skating by paying Rs 100 for a session. The fee includes provision of skates by the club.
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.