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Some Basic Etiquette For Enjoying Maggie Daley Park's Skating Ribbon

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 29, 2014 5:00PM

Photo credit: Road2Nowhere

The Maggie Daley Park ice skating ribbon is an unequivocal success, with capacity crowds flocking to the quarter-mile loop throughout the weekend to experience the undulating loop for themselves. The video of a tranquil loop around the ribbon doesn’t fully prepare you for the exhilaration you’re sure to experience once you take the ice, if you're a skilled skater and hit the rink at a quieter time of day. But that's the exception, not the norm.

More often, here's what you'll experience on the skating ribbon.

The crowds on the rink this weekend unfortunately lead to some sour moments on the ice. I’ve been to the skating ribbon a few times now and have seen nearly every rule of the rink broken at least once, the most popular of those being using smartphones on the ice. It’s understandable: you’re on a beautiful and unique looking ice rink with breathtaking views of the downtown skyline, Millennium Park to the west and the in-progress Maggie Daley Park—you want to take a selfie or have someone else take your picture!

~ a wonderful day with a wonderful person ~

A photo posted by Colette Paulsen (@colettepaulsen) on

The problem, especially during peak skating times, is nearly everyone else has the same idea as you. This has resulted in several slips, collisions and rink safety monitors exasperatedly imploring with people to mind the rules of the rink.

(Those rules, by the way, aren’t conveniently located for guests to read, Park District officials. That and adding a second Zamboni to the ribbon to cut resurfacing times that can take up to an hour are the biggest complaints to come from skating on the rink so far.)

As with anything, a few bad apples can spoil the fun you’re having on the skating ribbon if you allow it to. As with the lakefront path, sharing the streets between bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists takes education and awareness. Follow these simple suggestions and you'll maximize your fun at Maggie Daley Park every time you tighten the laces on your blades.

Know How To Skate: This would seem obvious, no? And yet every time I've taken to the ice at the ribbon there are scores of people hugging the rails on either side because they don't know how to skate that initial climb or navigate the first, faster descent. The mass of humanity becomes critical near the midpoint of that descent and I've observed wipeouts ranging from anywhere between one to eight people.

I'm not saying you need to be a master skater to enjoy the ribbon (I'm certainly not) but knowing how to slow down, how to stop, how to get up after falling and calling out when you're passing others goes a long way toward being safe on the ribbon. During peak times you're sharing the rink with 700 other people. That's a tight fit in spots. If you want to work on your skating skills, all of Chicago Park District's outdoor rinks, the McCormick Tribune ice rink in Millennium Park and the McFetridge Ice Center offer classes so you can shore up the weaknesses in your skating game.

Skate Two Abreast At All Times: The skating ribbon is a quarter-mile track but its width is limited, which is why there is a skating two abreast rule. Sure, you may want to hold hands with your significant other around a loop, but be prepared to go at a slower pace if one of you if gathering your bearings on the ice. This is especially true of parents bringing their children to the ribbon with training safety skates. IF you're doing that, refer to our first recommendation.

Keep The Selfies And Photo Opps To A Minimum: Again, we know you want to Instagram that skyline and the ice. But don't stop in the middle of a turn or a descent to do that.


A photo posted by Becca (@bsweets0314) on

These photo ops, coincidentally, violate the "skate only two abreast" rule. On Sunday I witnessed a group of a dozen sorority girls stopping at the end of the first descent to take a photo, their side-by-side mass extending into the rink.

There are two spots to best take a photo and those are the spots to enter and leave the ice. The first location is near the lockers and skate rental, the second is between the descents near the second turn. There's plenty of rink space there where you can get your photo moment and not be a hazard to other skaters.

Don't Be A Speed Demon: You aren't Bobby Hull. You'll never be the Golden Jet. Stop trying to crack the sound barrier on sharpened edges of steel and a throwback Blackhawks jersey. And both call out when you're passing slower, less experienced skaters and give ample room passing them. Otherwise, you'll spook 'em like a chihuahua.