Even as the mercury has dropped sharply the ongoing widening and levelling work at Asia's only natural ice skating rink has resulted in the skating season being delayed by about a week, causing disappointment among ice skaters and tourists. This is the first time that the season did not commence in the first week of December.
Usually freezing in the nine decades old rink begins in the last week of November and the first week of December while the skating session starts from December 10 to 15, but this time due to the repair work freezing could not start and it would take a day or two to complete the work.
“The leveling work will be finished on Friday and then the freezing will start, provided the sky remains clear at night and the temperature is low,” said Bhuvnesh Banga, secretary of the Ice Skating Club.
“The current temperature is not favorable and the cloudy sky at nights is not suitable for freezing as there need to be a thick layer of ice for skating, he added.
Delay in the skating season has disappointed many including locals and tourists. Ritesh Rathod of Jodhpur, who has come with his family, said he had heard about ice skating in Shimla. “We have heard about the ice skating rink but were disappointed to see no one was skating as some construction work was going on. The organizer could have completed the work well before the onset of winter,” he added.
A local skater, Sakshi Sood, said she has been a regular visitor to the skating rink for the past five years. “The weather is favorable for natural freezing but the skating rink is not ready,” she added.
The ice skating club normally holds two sessions a day - from 8 am to 11 am and from 5.30 pm to 8 pm. On an average 50-60 sessions are held but last year there were only 35 sessions while in 2009-10 it hosted only 27 sessions, the lowest in the rink's history.
During the British raj, the rink was a tennis court and an ice skating rink was later built in 1920 by an army official, Blessington, who found the water taps and even the trickles of water frozen in the vicinity and flooded the courts with water which got frozen.
According to old timers, in the early days the club used to have over 150 sessions in a season, but with time the rising population and deforestation has affected the climate.