Thursday, December 24, 2009
Synthetic Ice Skating at the Los Angeles Zoo
Is it really "ice skating" if it's not really ice?
Evan's a big fan of the real-ice skating rink at Pershing Square -- so when we heard that the Los Angeles Zoo had opened a rink of its own, we grabbed our Zoo membership pass and headed over to Griffith Park on Wednesday.
Turns out the Zoo's rink is part of a growing network of eco-friendly, quick-to-assemble Synthetic Hybrid-Ice rinks.
It's not actually ice at all, but a plastic polymer (coated with a "glide enhancer") that acts like ice. The zoo rink rents out nice, real ice skates -- but the experience doesn't quite emulate the actual ice rink experience.
The company behind the rinks notes that the pros of such a set up include the ability to operate a ice skating attraction "without the need for expensive refrigeration units, generators, or electricity, and made from a recyclable, polymer compound, our rinks are the eco-friendly, low cost alternative to real ice."
The rink is also perfect for beginners and shaky skaters. For Evan, that meant being able to skate on his own for the first time -- unlike the real rink at Pershing Square, which is still too slippery for the kid to go out on his own (i.e., I hold his hands the whole time).
On a weekday afternoon, the rink (smaller in size than the already-tiny Pershing rink) was nearly empty -- also making for a more pleasant experience for our kid skater.
By the end of our 30 minute session, Evan was doing turns on his own and learning how to glide on his skates. That'll be helpful the next time we hit the real rink.
On the con side, there is no "resurfacing" of the fake ice. The plastic polymer gets pretty scraped up -- and dirty. What's worse, the skate blades create tiny plastic shavings, which get all over you if you fall down. Evan's pants were covered with those white spots as we left.
For more comfortable skaters, the polymer doesn't allow for fast skating -- the company compares it to skating on a frozen pond, with 10%-15% slower speeds than normal ice rinks -- which might be frustrating if you're used to skating on ice.
Overall, the rink wasn't for me -- but was a fantastic experience for the Blogger Preschooler. I highly recommend it for folks who aren't quite ready to skate on their own on real ice.
The Los Angeles Zoo rink costs $5 for 30 minutes. The rink is open through Jan. 10 (except for Christmas day, when the zoo is closed).