Find this minuscule portable rink, a holiday-season pop-up, under a white tent at the Winter Village in Hillsboro’s Jerry Willey Plaza, next to the Orenco MAX station. Supposedly, there are holiday jams on the sound system, but all that’s really audible is the scraping on the ice of nearly a dozen learn-to-skate supports in the shape of “Bobby the seal,” which can be rented for $5. Alas, this is actually a plastic blue seal, though for a moment you get to wonder if Black Panthers cofounder Bobby Seale is going to walk out of the Orenco Little Big Burger and start teaching you how to snowplow.
For experienced skaters, the flailing newbies on the tiny, crowded rink can create a fun obstacle course, but there’s no room to do a left crossover or even a proper stride. There’s barely even enough room for first-date photo ops. This temporary rink is best for people who can’t skate, don’t feel like learning right now, and are content to just ride a blue seal or hold the railing for the short trip around the ice. Its admission price ($13 for ages 12 and up, $10 for kids 4–11, with $2 off if you bring your own skates), which grants access for one 90-minute session at a time, is definitely on the steep side when considered per square foot.
The Portland area’s year-round indoor rinks might be better options for anyone who likes to skate or wants to learn. The Winterhawks Skating Center in Beaverton has extended holiday hours for public skating ($12, skate rental $3) during the school break, including a Christmas Day session, and sells beer at its snack bar. Sherwood Ice Arena (admission $9, including skate rental) also adds more public sessions during the break, in between its hockey league games. Next to a megachurch in Vancouver, the cavernous Mountain View Ice Arena ($9.75, $3.75 skate rental) maintains its usual short public sessions through the holidays, with the addition of a Rockin’ New Year’s Eve slot at 7 p.m. December 31.
Those rinks are also used for youth hockey, freestyle lessons, stick-and-puck sessions, and raucous adult hockey league showdowns (sample team names: Apuckalypse Meow, Dangle Berries, Total Chaos, Puck Norris). The nonregulation small elliptical Lloyd Ice Rink has fewer interruptions (there are some dedicated freestyle sessions for competitive figure skaters, mostly just an hour in the mornings), and its public skating admission is good all day. The mall rink bumps that all-day admission price up from $17 to $20 during the holidays. Skate rental is an additional $4, or free for anyone under 5 or over 50. (Shorter DJ’ed sessions on Friday and Satruday nights are $15, or $18 during the holidays.)
First time on skates? Might we recommend starting on figure skates? The longer, straight blade is easier for balancing, and if you switch to hockey later it will be easier to get used to skating with no toe pick than it would be the other way around. There are plenty of reasons to start on hockey skates, too, both bad (falling for the stupid, stupid stereotype that hockey skates are for boys and figure skates are for girls) and good (an earlier mastery of skills to promote flexibility and independence, like the tough love shown in teaching someone to drive on a stick instead of an automatic transmission), but in general figure skates will lead to a more positive, less-bruised first skating experience. Tighten the laces well so your ankles aren’t flopping around, and remember there’s no shame in a helmet and kneepads.
Prefer to stay off the ice altogether? Get your skating fix from your couch with our power ranking of skating movies.