History of Simla Ice Skating Club
The history of ice skating goes back a very long way. This sport in the beginning was restricted to brief periods in winter season when rivers, lakes and ponds were frozen. Subsequently, many indoor ice skating rinks, which make the skaters independent of weather and daylight, came to be established in many technically prosperous countries. But these all-weather rinks have in no way undermined the importance of seasonal and natural rinks. Existence of an ice skating rink in Simla (Shimla) has procured an important place for India in the world map of winter sports.
The Ice skating Rink christened as the ‘Simla Ice skating Club’, which was established as far back as 1920 by one Mr. Blessington,
an English gentle man who, finding the water taps and even the trickles of water frozen in the vicinity of his tennis courts, flooded the courts with water which to his utter joy got frozen. This is the tale how the tennis courts were converted into ice skating rink during the winters of 1920. Simla Ice Skating Club was the first to be established in India and the only of its kind in whole of South East Asia. Even till this day the club has retained an envious position on the sports map of South East Asia. During the British era the Club only permitted Europeans to be its members, later however with certain reservations, a few selected Indians were also included as members. After the dawn of independence it was rendered open to all sports loving persons, irrespective of caste, color and creed.
The site of the rink is most ideally situated adjacent to the Circular road, just below the Scandal Point and conveniently approachable from all parts of the town. With the advent of winter, Simla Ice Skating Club resumes its activities with renewed vigour. After giving retouches to the surface of Blessington Courts water is spread over. It is deemed quite relevant to dispel a common misunderstanding that artificial and mechanical devices are adopted to freeze water into ice. The fact is that location of the rink at a place where sun rays find it impossible to penetrate helps in freezing the water naturally. The art and dexterity lies in flooding the ground with water during certain hours of night and day and the performance of this skill has been the monopoly of the Garhwali high-Landers,
who have been seasonally migrating to this place for seeking out their livelihood since generations, by converting the Blessington tennis Courts into Ice Skating Rink. December and January happen to be peak season for ice skating when the rink, covering an area equivalent to four tennis courts, is covered with a thick layer of about 15 cm of ice.
During chilly winters frost cover turned Shimla into an almost silent city, the atmosphere used to be impregnated with the fresh scent of burning charcoal, and fire place chimneys oozing smoke made the air little polluted. The town would have worn a deserted impression but the very existence of Ice Skating Rink bestowed an extra special position unequalled by any other place in India. Taking care of environment the heating systems have been modernized. The Club is not only a recreational centre but also provides the main centre of tourist attraction. The club has special arrangements of skating equipments for casual skaters and tourists on nominal rates.
The existence of a natural ice skating rink in Simla has certainly enhanced and elevated the elegance of this hill station endowed with a brilliant sun shine and bracing mountain air. This open air rink provides skating at the cheapest rates in the world. People from all quarters of life rub shoulders swirling past each other on the smooth surface of ice in this ground. Ice Skating being an exciting recreation during winters, is common among the masses, when other outdoor sports activities are almost nil.
Foreign dignitaries and tourists as also VIPs visiting this town during the winter months invariably make it a point to visit this place. This sport center is so popular among film stars that they never miss a chance to include a visit to this rink in their itinerary during winters. A brief shot of the rink for the movie is never ignored. One Dr. Vignes, the Australian Ice Skating Champion,
used to come all the way from Bangalore for ice skating only, even when he was in his eighties till he was snatched from us by the cruel hands of death in 1964. This Club is associated with the Portland Ice Skating Club of the United States of America.
It is not particularly hard to learn to skate. It requires, like other sports, strong legs, a good sense of balance, confidence, enthusiasm and courage. Normally, the keen, smart and energetic learners can pick up gliding over the smooth surface of ice in a week’s time. Many people ice skate just for recreation, health and amusement but anyone keen to carry it a stage further and acquire a high level of skill can find a wide range of opportunity from which to choose. Those who become adept can exhibit escapade on ice and show breezy feats. Hockey on ice is the fastest game in the world, it is breath-taking and delight to watch. People indulge in various types of fun and frolics according to their aptitude and skill. Couple skating, figure skating, free skating and dancing on ice keep the onlookers spell bound. All this is accompanied by rhythmical music harmonizing with step movement. Except the Hockey game, races and jumps, for all other items on ice, music is a necessary concomitant. During the last week of December every year, normally synchronizing with Christmas in the favorable weather circumstances, the Club arranges a Fancy Dress Carnival which is witnessed by more than a 10,000 strong crowd is shivering winter every year. The other important event of the Club is the Annual Gymkhana conducting the ice-skating championships.
The club has an ambitious plan to develop its premises into a sports stadium which is a long standing need of all sports loving people of the town. With the blessings and benevolence of the patrons of the club, we wish to achieve this target and accomplish the project before it is too late. The State Government too is very keen to see our dreams come true. The blessings, love, care and emotional attachment of all would keep it alive and kicking.