The Siskiyou Ice Rink in Mount Shasta
● By Jon Lewis
Grins and Glides
By Jon Lewis
Main photo by Robert Renick
If there’s one thing an ice rink needs, it’s ice. Self-explanatory, certainly, but nonetheless, it was an issue at the Siskiyou Ice Rink last year when a compressor failed and the chiller – the refrigeration unit required to keep ice frozen – went on the fritz.
Mount Shasta’s beloved outdoor rink was on the brink; its operators were preparing to shut it down ahead of this winter’s season. But an anonymous donor, working through the Marin Community Foundation, stepped up to save the day.
After negotiating with the Mt. Shasta Recreation and Parks District and the volunteer Friends of the Rink, the mysterious benefactor contributed $95,000 – enough money to replace both compressors, bring the chiller back to like-new condition and upgrade the Zamboni ice-surfacing machine.
“It’s looking good this year,” says Mount Shasta resident Steve Bachmann, president of Friends of the Rink. “Everything is fixed. The Zamboni is fixed, the chiller is fixed … the rink is in the best shape it’s ever been going into this season.”
Mount Shasta City Council member John Stackfleth, who doubles as the rink manager (and weekend Zamboni operator), is optimistic the rink will top the 10,000-visitor mark this winter to set an attendance record. “We are looking forward to a full 14-week season,” Stackfleth says.
At an impressive 85 feet wide and 200 feet long, the size of a regulation National Hockey League venue, the Siskiyou Ice Rink is the largest outdoor rink in California and the largest rink between San Jose and Medford, Ore.
As such, it attracts recreational skaters and hockey players from throughout the North State and during the holidays it’s not unusual to encounter visitors from as far away as Switzerland and New Zealand.
“We get a lot of great support from the community and the North State,” says Mike Rodriguez, head of the Mt. Shasta Recreation and Parks District. “We’re very happy and excited to have this facility to provide all these recreational opportunities.”
Those opportunities include adult and youth hockey programs that continue to gain in popularity. Mark Thibideau, a Forest Service firefighter from Dunsmuir who grew up playing hockey in Indiana, runs the Mt. Shasta Icebreakers. He expects more than 40 kids will be involved in the nonprofit hockey association this winter.
Beginners practice on Monday and Wednesday while intermediate and advanced players, under the guidance of Chris McGrew, gather on Tuesday and Thursday. Both groups scrimmage on Saturdays. “We also encourage the younger kids to come out on Sundays for pickup games and play with adults,” Thibideau says.
The young coach, now in his fifth year with the Icebreakers, says it may be the “cheapest youth hockey program in the country.” An entire family can sign up for about $250 and that includes the required gear and membership in U.S. Hockey. Weed resident Crystal Summers is not a hockey player but she enjoys watching. Even more so, she enjoys skating with her friends and siblings. A native of Southern California, she says she wasn’t introduced to ice skating until she moved north. “The staff is always super helpful and cheery. I didn’t know how to skate but a staff member showed me some tricks. It’s not very hard.”
Summers says the special events – the Turkey Bowl, visiting with Santa, the two-for-one Cheap Skate Night, Valentine’s Day and the rest – add to the fun, but the best part of the rink is the chance to skate in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. “It’s definitely beautiful,” Summers says. During night skating sessions when the weather is clear, the stars are out and the moon is full, Rodriguez says it can be almost magical.
The Siskiyou Ice Rink came to life in 2000, thanks to the work of skating enthusiasts, local contributors and grants from the McConnell Foundation and the Ford Foundation of Roseburg, Ore. Originally built on a sand foundation, the rink was upgraded in 2004 with a cement pad, courtesy of another substantial grant from the McConnell Foundation.
The rink’s biggest challenge is the lack of a roof to shield the ice from snow and rain, and a storm-shortened season in 2010-11 forced the parks district to close it. Friends of the Rink was formed to take over management of the rink and it reopened for the 2012-13 season.
The aforementioned anonymous donor visited the rink in 2013 and asked what was needed to ensure its viability. Bachmann says the Friends of the Rink offered a list of options and the donor chose to fund the expansion to a full-sized, NHL-caliber rink.
The $223,000 donation included new dasher boards, a concrete sidewalk and new wiring for the lighting and sound system. “They literally came in out of the blue and basically asked what we needed to make it successful,” Bachmann says.
The support from philanthropists has been huge, but Stackfleth says the rink’s biggest source of support may just be the mountain itself. Skaters from Siskiyou, Shasta and Tehama counties, and a surprising number from the Bay Area, have been flocking to the rink “because they like the outdoor feel of it and the great view of Mt. Shasta. It’s definitely a very special location to skate. People just love coming out to do that.”
Siskiyou Ice Rink
Shastice Park, 800 Rockfellow Drive
Scheduled to be open from Nov. 18 to Feb. 25