All quiet at Shimla’s ice rink after a busy season

February 10th, 2011 - 12:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, Feb 10 (IANS) Asia’s oldest natural ice skating rink in this Himachal Pradesh hill town has gone back to sleep after an excitingly busy season, thanks to the freezing winter weather this year. No more skating sessions are possible now due to abrupt rise in temperatures.

“With the rise in temperatures, the natural formation of ice is almost negligible. The process of thawing of the existing ice layer has begun,” Bhuvnesh Banga, secretary of the Simla (as the British used to spell) Ice Skating Club, told IANS.

There has been no skating session since Feb 4 and the club has decided to officially announce the end of the skating season, he said.

But the club authorities are happy.

The rink really came back to life this year after a long gap.

The rink had been only partially frozen for the past few years owing to the unusually high temperatures during winter.

“This winter was quite chilly compared to the previous five or six years. The skating rink held 86 sessions. It was a good season this time,” Banga said.

The club saw only 27 sessions in 2008-2009, the lowest in the club’s history. However, it was better in 2009-2010 when it hosted 77 skating sessions.

This season the club also hosted the national skating championship that saw more than 100 skaters from across the country in speed skating and figure skating events.

The club authorities sprinkle water on the clay ground that freezes under natural conditions.

It was Irish military official Blessington, a Shimla resident, who came up with the idea of setting up a natural ice skating rink in the town.

It is said that one day he inadvertently kept a bucket of water outside his residence during the peak of winter and found it completely frozen the next morning.

This is said to have given him the idea of a skating rink. He created a small one for his own use in 1920.

Old-timers say there used to be more than 150 sessions in a season in the early days of the club.

“Till late 1970s, the skating season begun in November was on till the end of February. Of late, it has shrunk to two months from December,” octogenarian ice-skating champion Madan Lal Sharma said.

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

Environmentalists blame the declining number of skating sessions to rising air pollution, high intensity of human activity and deforestation in the vicinity of the rink, which is located close to the old bus stand.

According to the meteorological office here, Shimla had its coldest night this winter on Jan 16 when it was a biting minus 3.3 degrees.

The temperature has been slowly rising over the past few days.

According to Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office in Shimla, the temperature will remain more or less on the higher side.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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