It’s hard to remember the exact year, but two or three holidays ago, while I helped backstage at the highly anticipated Christmas Eve Ice Show, it started to snow. The grand production was well underway and dozens of talented skaters spun and leaped around Sun Valley’s famous outdoor ice rink (the largest year-round outdoor rink in the world). Spotlights captured the falling snowflakes as they began to land on the skater’s lashes and vintage costumes, on the hats and scarves of the full-to-capacity audience. Quickly, the pace of the storm increased, and thick, heavy flakes, that looked like they might have been created in Hollywood (cue the snow), began to fall in earnest. The skaters were veiled in the snowy mist, their jeweled dresses sparkled in the lights, skate blades cut through the accumulating powder. It had been a light early snow season that year and this gift on Christmas Eve was on everyone’s wish list.
The Nutcracker on Ice is a tradition that always has an element of magic, whether it comes in the form of snowfall, the appearance of an Olympian among the local skaters, a shooting star streaming across a crisp Idaho holiday sky. It is a tradition that my family has embraced now for six years. As the mother of two figure skaters (and their little brother who always got the role of a mouse because I needed them all in the same place), I have enjoyed the pleasure of a behind-the-scenes perspective on this show – a favorite of guests and locals alike. When the girls were little, I volunteered backstage, as the “quick-change” helper. This meant I was supposed to assist the skaters out of one costume and into another for the next scene. Allow me to tell you, though, there is nothing “quick” about changing little girls who are in ice skates out of their party scene dresses and into a candy cane costume, but these nights were filled with camaraderie, high excitement and a great deal of fun.
Two years ago, I moved out of my role of backstage mom and watched the production in full for the first time. Seated shoulder-to-shoulder with the entire Wood River Valley and guests from all over the country and the world, I happily sipped cocoa, waved to friends and was amazed by the skaters I see every day performing the charming choreography professionally and flawlessly. They practice a lot and it shows. When the Sun Valley Carolers arrived by sleigh, setting the performance in motion, the large crowd collectively inhaled before bursting into appreciative applause.
From this vantage point in the bleachers (which are unreserved and first-come, first-served for this show), I was again able to enjoy the traditional torchlight parade featuring ski school instructors, torches held aloft, navigating the face of Dollar Mountain. As far back as 1987, my family drove up a nearby hill and watched this stunning parade of fire before we went home to open gifts. Oh, and did I mention the fireworks that follow? Spectacular! As much as I liked being in the skate house, taking in the entire experience from the vantage point of the audience was magical, indeed.
The Christmas Eve Ice Show is something that all members of the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club and local skating community look forward to each year as much as the audience does. As the children grow, so do their parts and responsibilities. My little girls of six years ago are now the big girls, helping the little ones navigate their first ice show. The show’s choreographer, Gia Guddat said she loves to watch the skaters grow from party scene girls, to Candyland sweets, to snow angels. And everyone involved enjoys performing for the huge audience, giving this gift to the community.
At 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the place to be in Sun Valley is on the Lodge Terrace enjoying cocoa and a snack, then onto the bleachers (bring a blanket to sit on and bundle up) to enjoy the sights and sounds of a Sun Valley Christmas on Ice. The show is sure to become a tradition for your family, too.