Where I'm from, winters are frigid, depressing things. The morning sky is gray and it just degrades to a darker shade of gray by evening. When you step outside, the wind whips your fingertips blue in a matter of seconds. They quickly go numb, but like when the dentist drills a tooth that's been zapped with Novocaine, you've got a lingering awareness of searing pain buried just below the sub-zero anesthesia.
That's why I, and I suspect many other northerners, moved to Miami. But because we hail from the same corner of the country as Jerry Seinfeld, you'll often hear us Yankee transplants lamenting wistfully: "I wish it would snow, just for a day. Just to make it feel a little more like the holidays, you know?"
The folks in management at downtown's InterContinental Hotel get it. About two weeks ago, they introduced their outdoor ice skating rink to pacify our bratty, northern whinings, and to give native Miamians an experience they've only seen in fine American cinema like The Mighty Ducks trilogy.
The quaint little rink is situated under a tent, and is about the same size as the pond my friends and I used to skate on in a borderline-rural Pennsylvania town on the Delaware River. In contrast, the hotel's rink lacks the pond's black ice and consequent risk of plunging into a frigid and potentially fatal ice bath. But oh well, you can't have it all.
For $20 ($10 if you're under 18), you get to rent a pair of skates and tear up the rink to Top 40 pop music while life-sized nutcracker figurines watch from the sidelines. Though it wasn't open during my visit, there's a full bar that sells reasonably priced wine and cocktails, in case you feel the need to increase your odds of falling on your ass. According to rink attendants Ife and Monica, though, not everyone ends up horizontal on the ice.
"There was this mom, father and son this morning, and they just tore up the ice, twirling and spinning," said Monica.
They said the rink gets busiest when groups of children migrate over from the playground across the street. "Parents are always saying, 'It's so cute! What a good idea!'" Ife said. "People really like it."
The girls outfitted my childhood friend Danny and me with some skates, and we gave the rink a few whirls of our own. After a couple rounds, we got our Pennsylvania pond legs back and I found myself showing off with some backwards laps.
"Whoah!" said Danny. "Look at you!" Then, never one to let my head get too inflated, he said, "People will think you're really cool until they realize you got good working as a dorky skate guard at a roller rink."
I never actually held such a job, but I laughed anyway, thinking about the oh-so-serious whistle-happy skate guards at our hometown rollerskating rink, Big Wheel.
We had our fill, and after unlacing our skates, returned them to Monica and Ife. "Nice job out there," Monica said. "We saw you even went backwards a little bit."
My adorably absent-minded friend chimed in with perfect tact. "Yeah, I told her people would think she was really cool until they realized she worked at a skating rink."
My friend winked cluelessly at me. The girls smiled politely. I don't think they were offended.
The rink is open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. until January 15. Skating costs $20 per hour for adults and $10 per hour for kids under 18. Group and family packages and private party reservations are available. Call 305-372-4787.
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