Nobody in Santa Monica has a snow-covered slope in their backyard to practice slalom runs. Some think they can just march up a mountain and dominate a black diamond on courage and instinct alone. Instead, they wind up face first in snow, wishing they’d practiced.
In order to prepare skiers and snowboarders for the real deal, and to spare them from slushy, frostbitten shame, two-time world ski champion Bob Salemo devised his innovative Virtual Snow training system. In a controlled indoor environment far away from menacing ski lifts and snowballs tossed by mountain goats, winter-sports enthusiasts perfect their maneuvers in fun training drills led by skilled instructors and the clever teachings of Salemo himself. The faux ski-course simulator, which resembles a large conveyor belt, mimics the smooth surface and wily turns of a downhill slope as its snowy surface rolls beneath the feet of students on skis or snowboards. Future Picabo Streets or Shawn Whites not only expand their abilities to new levels, but they can also practice tricks without bailing out and shake off any bad habits they learned from sleet gangs.
Each winter, the Woodland Hills Ice rink appears at the Westfield Promenade. More than 7,000 square feet of solid ice supports skaters throughout the season as they enjoy open recreational sessions, skating classes, private lessons, and parties. Towering pines surround the open-air rink, providing a romantic backdrop for couples and an inspiring setting for hockey players in training montages.
The gleaming blades of ice skates glide across the smooth, subzero surface of Iceland Ice Skating Center’s rink as guests swish in circles or try out their fancy footwork. Skaters of all abilities can enroll in skating classes to master pinpoint turns, develop graceful pirouettes, or learn how to shave with a tightly fastened skate. Public-skate sessions give skaters freestyle time on the ice, and thumping beats and a phosphorescent ambiance spice up skate sessions during Disco Light Night. Kids aged 4 and older can climb into unique, safe bumper cars and glide on the ice at up to 5 miles per hour during bumper-car sessions, and shoe-wearing players can assemble for a game of broomball, a hockey-like game played with a broom instead of a stick and legions of frozen-solid dust bunnies instead of a puck.
The frosty rinks at Iceoplex have supported the arabesques of professional figure skaters and served as the backdrop in feature films. During public skating hours, though, anyone can stop by for a glide on the ice. Visitors can rent hockey or figure skates for the day, hold events in heated party rooms, or play games in the video arcade. Beginning skaters can attend skating school or take hockey lessons.
Toyota Sports Center entices skaters of all ages with a trio of glassy rinks smooth enough to be commandeered for official practices by the L.A. Kings. When the pros aren't reigning over the ice, guests can practice axel jumps during skating lessons or show up for public skating sessions to lap the flattened glacier in search of preserved saber-toothed zambonis. Toyota Sports Center also educates aspiring Great Ones with beginners hockey classes, hosts youth and adult leagues, and encourages visitors to bulk up off the ice at the fitness center, which is outfitted with free weights and treadmills for those slowly reconnecting with exercise on solid ground.
Former Olympic bronze medalist Lloyd Eisler oversees the LA Kings Valley Ice Center's day-to-day operations, which include public skating sessions, private lessons, and hockey leagues designed for youth, adult, and special-needs players. Thanks to extensive renovations in the fall of 2011, the facility now sports a sleek lobby with energy-efficient lighting. The two-rink facility hosts birthday parties and runs a well-stocked pro shop where you can get hockey sticks and helmets or sharpen your blades after skating across the parking lot.