A low-lying fog swirls over the ice as shadowy figures glide, working on their figure eights, their spins, and jumps.
It just doesn’t seem natural. But on a day when the temperatures outside hover in the mid-80s, the Kiwanis Ice Arena opened for its 13th season.
The low-lying fog, explains figure skater Geoffrey Wrights of Woodstock, 51, is caused by the heat and humidity from the outside. “But if feels great coming in here out of the heat,” he said.
Dressed in a short-sleeved t-shirt but wearing gloves, Wrights is a competitive figure skater, who recently took a silver medal in a national competition held in Chicago.
“I skated when I was a youngster, but gave it up and only got back into it about six years ago,” he explained. “ I just got tired of going to the gym, or riding my bike, so came back to my first love – figure skating.”
Wrights is part of the Saugerties Skating School, and helps teach adults how to skate. School founder Amy Montalbano teaches the kids.
Montalbano, who formed the school six years ago, said they teach youngsters and adults of all skill levels. “Last season we had about 100 kids taking part in our summer skating camp,” she said.
Two 15-year-olds join Wrights on the ice, bringing some show and grace to it. Berenger Garnica, who goes to Saugerties High School, and her friend, Samantha Linbeskind, who lives in New York City, work on spins and jumps. Their grace and skill are evident.
Like Wrights, Garnica skates competitively and usually finishes first in the contests, which take place in towns along the Hudson River.
Linbeskind uses figure skating as a way of keeping in shape. She studies dance at the Dance Conservatory of New York.
“I’ve been doing this since I was a youngster,” Linbeskind said. Garnica, who has been skating since she was four, gives her parents a lot of credit for driving her to the various competitions and getting her to the rinks to practice, sometimes early in the morning.
“We’re looking forward to this year,” said arena director Rob Kleemann. “We have something for everyone.”
Located on Washington Avenue across from HITS, the arena offers public skating, freestyle figure skating, drop-in hockey, a mens’ league, a kids’ league, and a “moms on skates” hockey league.
Saugerties draws from a large area, with the nearest other ice arenas located in Albany, Newburgh, and Poughkeepsie.
“We get really busy,” Kleemann said, “especially Thanksgiving ‘til late February, when hockey season comes.”
Hockey is the bread and butter for the arena, with high school teams and junior teams vying for ice time. There’s so much need for ice time that practice begins as early as 5 a.m.
Skaters come from across Ulster and Dutchess counties, with the majority coming from Saugerties and nearby Kingston.
The Kiwanis arena also has programs during the winter with the Hunter Mountain and Wyndham Mountain ski areas.
“They advertise for us and we do the same for them,” Kleemann said. “If the skiing is not so good, or the weather is bad, the skiers will come here for a day of fun.”
“Last year, there wasn’t so much snow, so we saw a lot of skiers come in to skate for the day,” he added.
The skating season ends at the beginning of April, when the ice is melted and drained off. Prior to the start of each new season, new ice is put down.
“We use Saugerties water,” Kleemann said, “but first we put it through a reverse-osmosis process that takes out many of the minerals. It’s the minerals that create air pockets in the ice.”
“We spray the water out in lots of layers, rather than just flood the rink,” he explained. Then on a regular basis, Kleemann climbs into the Zamboni and smoothes out the ice. “It takes us seven days to get just the right ice for the year.”
But during the off-season, when the only flooring is cement, the arena is used for other programs, such as the Saugerties Public Library Book Fair.
“It’s expensive to keep the place open all year, but for the book fair, it’s worth it,” Kleemann said.
In addition to the ice hockey program, and the Saugerties Skating School, the arena also headquarters the Boundless Edge Figure Skating School.
For more information about the arena and its many programs and events, visit