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Sun Valley outdoor rink revered by all skaters

Skating show under the stars continues to flourish

Frank Sweiding (left) and Anita Hartshorn (right) pose with Brian Boitano after a show at the famous outdoor rink in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Frank Sweiding (left) and Anita Hartshorn (right) pose with Brian Boitano after a show at the famous outdoor rink in Sun Valley, Idaho. (courtesy of Anita Hartshorn)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(08/28/2008) - Sonja Henie immortalized it in a 1941 movie, and, to this day, skating on the beautiful outdoor rink in Sun Valley, Idaho, remains a highlight for many skaters.

"To see their faces when they see the outdoor rink and see people skating is incredible," says Anita Hartshorn, who has been performing in Sun Valley summer ice shows with on- and off-ice partner Frank Sweiding since 1989. "Rachael Flatt came here for the first time, and she was just flabbergasted. She said, 'It's so beautiful here. Can I come back next year for a week?'

"Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre were here," she adds. "Brent saw a coach from New Jersey on the outdoor rink and said to him, 'No wonder you never stay on the East Coast for the summer. This is unbelievable.'"

The weekly ice shows in Sun Valley began in the late 1930s on a small 120x60-foot surface. The current 180x90-foot rink has been around since 1955. Over the years, virtually everyone who is anyone has performed on the rink, including Scott Hamilton, Brian Orser and Katarina Witt. This summer, the guest stars have been Kurt Browning, Brian Boitano, Jeffrey Buttle, Johnny Weir, Ryan Bradley, Alissa Czisny, Sasha Cohen, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Navarro and Bommentre. Evan Lysacek will be performing on Aug. 30.

The guest stars perform in addition to the regulars, Jozef Sabovcik, Dan Hollander, Hartshorn and Sweiding, as well as a chorus filled with national-level skaters, such as Craig Heath and Eddie Gornick.

"Nobody is in the chorus who isn't a gold medalist," says Hartshorn. "The choreography [by Lori Benton and Simone Grigorescu] is very sophisticated." Sweiding has directed the shows since 2002, and this year the four men and eight women of the chorus perform eight numbers, in addition to the regulars and the guest skaters. There is one kiddy number in the show for Sun Valley Skating Club members ages 6 and under.

Throughout the week, people train on the outdoor rink as well as an indoor rink, which is open year-round. There are classes in addition to private lessons. Boitano and his lifelong coach Linda Leaver come each summer. This year, he spent a week working with Czisny and also with Bradley, who's quad toe was much more consistent afterwards.

Nancy Kerrigan came for a 10-day family vacation and also used it as an opportunity to get back into performing shape. "Every day at 12:30 there is a senior pro session, where you have to be a senior-level skater or a pro to skate on the session," Hartshorn says.

Kerrigan's 11-year-old son, Matthew, took quite a few classes and had some lessons while the family was there. "His basic skating skills are excellent," says Hartshorn. "He has good crossovers, good skating skills, and he can really move across the ice."

Hartshorn says she and Sweiding sometimes take their laptops to the sunroom that overlooks the rink, which of course has Wi-Fi, and catch up on work while watching people skate. They've overhead others in the room who are so inspired by the scene they decide to skate for the first time in years.

With the opening of the spectacular Sun Valley Pavilion on Aug. 3, a facility where the Sun Valley Symphony performs free concerts, the area has been bustling this summer. This isn't lost on the guest skaters, who usually bring friends and family along and make their stays into vacations.

"It's all part of the charm of Sun Valley," Hartshorn says.