Ice Skating in Huntsville has a long and prolific history dating back to Jefferson Hunt in the 1860’s. During winter meetings with his Native Indian friends, Jefferson was known to skate on the frozen South Fork river just upstream of the beaver dam in what is now known as the river bottoms. His forged steel blades were strapped to the beaver pelt boots that had been handcrafted by one of Jefferson’s wives. He often impressed the small gathering by performing Pirouettes on the frozen river bed.
Some 75 years later, Whiskey Joe and Chris the Danishman were frequently challenged to a game of two on one drop in hockey at the town square by a young man named Gordie Howe. Apparently the young Canuck spent winters away from frigid Saskatchewan to visit grandma Howe in the more temperate Huntsville climate.
These tales may be a bit historically challenged, but certainly would not be the first stories with a slight embellishment or two with the intent of eliciting interest.
In more recent times, the history is a bit more clear. Frustrated by the snow removal and accessibility problems associated with skating on the recently raised reservoir, “Blondie” Petersen and his sons began flooding the tennis court in the town square during the 1960’s. Mayor Leon Sorensen and sons Dave, Doug and Don also put in countless hours crafting this early rink. They would drag garden hoses from Orvis Petersen’s home and spend night after night perfecting the rink, which would be considered small by today’s standards.
Blondie, along with young sons Kenton and Blake, would put on their old, dull, Deseret Industries skates while sitting on Orvis’ front porch, then make the trek across the street to the tennis court for some power skating. Their skates were sharpened by the asphalt as they made the journey. Blondie was the true pioneer of the rink as we know it today. Sadly, he passed and took with him the knowledge, determination and hard work associated with ice rink construction.
Some years later, during the mid-late seventies, a young and ambitious Valley Junior High School History teacher named Daurel Barnes gave the rink new life. Mr. Barnes, as known by his students, spent time with and was schooled by the ice rink creators of the Logan Ice Rink, which was the premier rink in the state at the time.
The rink was recreated directly west of the tennis courts and had a rectangular shape running north and south with the entrance across from the schools east entry door. Daurel enticed a couple of unsuspecting, local students to help with his endeavor by allowing them to miss a history class or maybe even an occasional English class to spray the rink during the cool mornings. The downside was that they also had to spend late nights sweeping and spraying the rink in the bone chilling temps. In return, the boys were given keys to the school so they could have a “warming hut” to wait in between coats. They had free rein of the school and spent time drinking hot chocolate, running through the empty halls and dancing on Principal Scott Ballif’s desk.
That rink was a big part of winters in Huntsville. Organized Ice skating lessons and clinics were given by professional skaters and Valley students skated during recess, lunchtime and after school. Hockey was not real big then and most kids skated on figure skates. Marshal Hislop, in true Evel Knievel fashion, perfected the art of jumping fellow classmates and other obstacles.
Eventually, Snowcrest was built and it came time for Daurel to pass on the reins. Principal Ballif kept it going for a few years and interest finally waned when he was transferred.
Many years passed and the rink received a new revival in the nineties. A few saviors such as D. Bell, Kenton Peterson, Sam Bellarosa and others resurrected the rink yet again. Yes, Kenton Peterson, the same Kenton who helped his father some thirty years prior. They relocated the rink to its present location and have helped with many upgrades over the years. The town acquired a tractor and a used sweeper attachment and also installed a hydrant as well as fire hoses to assist in the watering. Mood lighting has been installed over the years to add to the atmosphere.
The most recent 12-15 years have transformed into more of an era for Hockey as well as free or figure skating. Many local kids have excelled in the sport and have been an integral part of the Weber High Hockey Club. Other home town boys have even gone beyond high school to play.
There are many challenges to keep an outdoor rink alive. Burnout among volunteers is a factor as it can be very tiring to spend late night after late night prepping and watering only to wake early a few hours later to do it all over again. On any given night and morning when the temperature is below about 25 degrees or so, you will probably see someone working on the rink. The volunteers payback is when they see people using, enjoying and respecting the ice.
Mother nature is also a HUGE issue – she can be friend or foe depending on her current personality. When it is clear and cold, she is definitely on our side, but when it is warm and rainy she creates havoc. Worse yet is a skiff of snow followed by warm temps and rain, then a hard freeze followed by an errant snowmobile. Couple that with shade issues, or rather areas of the rink without shade during the midday sun, and you begin to realize the difficulties.
Additionally, we don’t have the luxury of a perfectly level surface such as The Ice Sheet, nor do we have refrigerated coils to keep the ice a consistent temperature. We certainly do not have a fleet of pricey Zamboni’s like the E Center, nor do we have walls to contain the ice.
What we do have is a great location with a lot of class and character along with a few dedicated volunteers to keep it going and now it is time to take the rink to the next level. Huntsville town has generously purchased a new, top of the line, six foot wide sweeper attachment to keep the ice in top shape, but more improvements are needed.
We would like to install a new hydrant and construct a heated building to house the plumbing and hoses. If you have driven by the park, you may have noticed a fire hose nozzle spraying to prevent the water and hydrant from freezing up as it has done twice so far this year. Also, we would like to install additional lighting for not only the skaters, but for the rink workers. At some point, we would like to grade and resod the area to create a more level and useable subsurface. With these improvements, we would be poised to have the best outdoor rink in Northern Utah and possibly the west.
So where do we go from here? Above all, come out and enjoy the rink as our window of opportunity is short and will be questionable come March. As of this writing, the rink is in fabulous condition. Next, volunteers are always welcome and your help is appreciated. As previously stated, virtually any cool night after about 9 or 10PM, or morning before 9 am, you will find someone working.
Furthermore, your donations are always welcome and appreciated. Huntsville is a small town with a small budget and cannot solely afford the necessary improvements to keep the rink running. Since many of the users are from outside the town limits, it would not be fair to burden the town’s residents with all of the costs. To that end, we are also hoping to secure assistance in the form of grants.
If you would like to make a donation, please send it to:
Attn: Councilman Wangsgard
PO Box 267
Huntsville, UT 84317
100% of your donations will go towards ice rink improvements.
We appreciate your support and hope to see you on the ice. Who knows, your child may become the next Gordie Howe.