By Ericka Kastner
Growing up in Minnesota, there was one gift my brother and I could always count on each year: a new pair of ice skates for Christmas. Replacing the ones we’d outgrown the previous year, we’d tie the skates together and toss them over our shoulders on the way out the door to school each morning, with plans to skate at the nearby rink at the park later in the day. I grew up loving skating and missed having such easy access to ice for my own children as I raised them in Salida.
A couple of winters ago I was fortunate to spend some time in Central Colorado’s historic town of Creede. Delightfully I discovered a warming hut draped with old skates at the north end of town, set beside two small ice ponds formed by groundwater from the Willow Creek drainage. The presence of metal bleachers on the banks of the pond told me the rinks at the Silver Skate Park were still very much in use today.
The ponds rest in a box canyon at the base of the 800-foot high Creede Cliffs. Creede local and pond hockey volunteer, Brian Brittain, says the pond (there used to be just one) dates back to the town’s mining days and has been a rink on and off for at least 100 years. It was officially revived in 2007, when volunteers began maintaining the ice again and created two ponds, one for hockey and one for free skating. The structure now used for the warming hut was donated at that time and relocated from another property in town.
In February of 2015, a production company filmed a commercial for Carhartt on the frozen pond here and in other areas of Mineral County. Afterwards, the company and Carhartt paid for a new Zamboni shed to be constructed at the skate park.
For a truly small town winter experience, mark your calendar and gather on the bleachers for Creede’s “Golden Pick” Tommyknocker Pond Hockey Tournament the third weekend in January each year. The tournament is 100 percent nonprofit, and all proceeds go directly to maintaining the pond ice, Zamboni equipment and funding future tournaments. During the dog- and kid-friendly tournament, refreshments are sold from inside the warming hut and bonfires light up the area, warming spectators and competitors from as far away as New Mexico, Michigan and Texas.
Another Creede skate park event not to miss is Cabin Fever Days, typically held the weekend after Valentine’s Day. During the weekend, opponents challenge each other to a game of curling on the ice, using half a bowling ball and a broom.
The Silver Skate Park is free and open to the public 24 hours a day. It is lighted at night, but the condition of the ice is weather dependent. Assorted sizes of figure skates, hockey skates and children’s skates are available for use at no charge inside the hut.
To view the commercial filmed on the ice or learn more about Creede pond hockey, visit creedepondhockey.wordpress.com.
Logophile and Places columnist Ericka Kastner finds herself extraordinarily lucky to be paid to write. In her childhood she could manage a figure skating spiral, but now she’s content to just skate backwards.