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Rise in Rinks: Montana enjoying nationwide spike in skating

Ice Skaters
Posted at 8:49 AM, Jan 22, 2024

Nowadays, it seems as though every small town in Montana has its own ice skating rink.

Perhaps, most notably in Lewistown, whose rink has lived on for 15 years, but even Bridger, Red Lodge, and Columbus have their own place to skate.

The one in Columbus, at the Stillwater Civic Center, just got started this year, and many residents in the area are thrilled with the addition.

"We've been looking forward to it for a few weeks," said Reed Point resident Catie Berry on Sunday afternoon during a break from skating. "It was too cold and before that, it wasn't cold enough. But right now, the ice is pretty good."

Berry and her family were among the many testing out the ice Sunday, and while the unpredictable weather prevented them from visiting earlier, it ended up being the perfect day.

"The weather has been perfect today," Berry said. "I'm in a long-sleeved shirt and totally comfortable."

Berry said that they couldn't be more excited to have an ice rink in their area.

"It's really great to get out here, get some exercise, get the kids out of the house and it's great that it's so close to where we live," Berry said. "Living somewhere rural, we don't get this kind of stuff very often and it's nice to have it close to home."

Ice skating is growing in popularity at the moment. The thousand-year-old sport saw an uptick in outdoor rinks being built across the country and according to a program called Learn To Skate, there was a 10 percent increase in beginners trying the sport during the 2022-23 season.

That increase has been noticeable at the Centennial Ice Rink in Billings. Director Megan Davis said at times, there isn't enough room on the ice for their weekly programs.

"We don't have enough ice for everything that everyone wants to do," Davis said Sunday afternoon. "All of (the programs) just have far more participation than they do in years past."

But Davis said she loves seeing the rise in popularity and hopes more communities find ways to get their residents on the ice.

"To see that increase in other communities as well, especially the small ones that don't have a lot of options is great," Davis said.

Berry and her family couldn't agree more.

"The more variety during the cold months is better and I think that's better for everyone," Berry said.