ASTANA — Relatively mild winter temperatures this year in Astana have allowed city residents to enjoy the city’s outdoor ice skating facilities.
“We wanted to enjoy every [moment] of this winter. It is abnormally warm for Astana,” said 30-year-old Yerbolat Uatkhan, who brings his family to the Rowing Channel behind the Kazakhstan Ice Hockey Arena, otherwise known as ‘Akbulak’ in Astana to skate every year. “I think if every winter were like this in Astana, the city would attract a lot more people; this would be great for small businesses, tourism and the city as a whole. But we [locals] know that in February, the snowstorms return to Astana,” he said.
Here, anyone can rent skates for as low as $2.73 per hour and skate and glide until late evening; if one has their own skates, entry is free.
“Yesterday, I went there [Akbulak] and skated for one hour with my daughter,” one of the visitors, who preferred to stay anonymous, said. “A one-hour skate rental costs 500 tenge (US$2.73). My daughter got brand new skates! The changing room is warm and comfortable. Hot food and drinks [are] available [on the premises] and there are nice conditions for small children. Everything is pretty well organised.”
Food concessions, skate sharpening booths, benches for changing skates on the ice and other amenities are also offered.
The popularity of ice skating in Astana this year might also be attributed to the success of Kazakh figure skating star Denis Ten, who brought home a bronze medal from the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
“It is a good thing that we have these activities available here in the capital,” 27-year-old accountant Anastassiya Ponomarenko said while taking her 11 and 8-year-old sons out. “What else can we do in Astana but some sort of winter sport? They [the administration] do a good job with the ice, almost every day it snows and they always clean it up. I can see them at work every morning out of my window overlooking the river. Because of the view, we come here almost every day. We used to rent skates here, but now we own our own.”
“I still think the weather is harsh,” Ponomarenko continued as she acknowledged of the challenges the Astana winters bring. “We originally come from Almaty; this is our second winter and it is very cold, they say it will get even colder, I can’t get used to this.”
But for now, it is just warm enough to enjoy a few spins around the rink.