Fans of ice sports throughout southwest Montana were saddened when the Valley Ice Garden shut its doors to become a cold-storage warehouse. Thankfully, the Gallatin County Fairgrounds immediately provided partial remedy with its semi-enclosed Haynes Pavilion. Now the official home of our illustrious Ice Dogs, the arena has seen numerous overall structural improvements in the past few months, including new insulation, improved lighting, and full enclosure. The pavilion is primarily for Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association (BAHA) play, but non-members can play pickup hockey twice a week, and open skating hours exist for the general public as well. The season is roughly November through March. Call the fairgrounds at 582-3270 for more information, or visit bozemanhockey.org.
“Bozeman has the nicest ice skating around,” says Thom White, Bozeman's park and cemetery supervisor. “As a general rule of thumb we try to get the rinks open by Christmas break.” His five-man crew toils effortlessly at the onset of winter, plowing, brooming, and soaking the ice so that kids—and parents—can enjoy healthy, outdoor recreation once schools close for the holidays. But above all scheduling interests, White and his coworkers are committed to providing the “safest skating possible.” That can sometimes mean closing the rinks on a day when it might be unpopular to do so.
As far as non-maintained skating goes, Bozeman Pond at the intersection of Fowler and Huffine is always a popular spot as well. If you’re up for a drive, or happen to be in Helena for the day, check out Canyon Ferry Lake. This sprawling ice sheet is the tried-and-true spot for everything from dainty figure skaters to long-distance speed skaters.
Basically, any frozen body of water is a potential skating rink—but if you’re in unfamiliar territory, be sure to choose a frozen-over shallow body of water so that if a breakthrough occurs you can safely walk out. Remember that you cannot judge the strength of ice just by looking at it. Generally, a thickness of at least five inches is considered safe for skating, and you'll need to drill through the ice to measure this most accurately. Remember to always look for cracks, holes, and debris on the ice surface. Quite often lakes and rivers do not freeze uniformly, so always use extreme caution and never skate alone.
For up-to-date conditions on Bozeman’s maintained rinks, call 582-3222.
Bozeman is also home to a few popular and well-maintained public rinks that are supervised by the local parks department:
At Bozeman and Villard sits this 2.2-acre park, with a finely groomed rink and several picnic tables. The rink is exclusively for recreational skating, so hockey players should check elsewhere.
If you only skate with a stick, amateur hockey abounds at Bogert Park, just a few blocks from Main Street on S. Church. Remember to bring a helmet.
The rink at the corner of 5th and College is perhaps Bozeman’s most famous. Come during a cold winter day to take a leisurely ice stroll with friends and family, or come at night to play some pickup hockey under the lights.