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Here's an idea: Ice in the drink

The floating skating rink at Lake Las Vegas, 30 minutes from the Strip, helps visitors enjoy getting out into the desert's cool winter air.

December 09, 2007|Jen Leo | Special to The Times

If you've never spent a winter in Las Vegas, you'd think that the only time it got cold was when you were standing directly under an air vent. Yet there really is a time when travelers can bring a jacket to Vegas and wear it -- outside.

Would you expect it to be at a frozen lake in the desert though? Vegas can be over-the-top weird, but come on, a frozen pond? MonteLago Village at Lake Las Vegas, a 30-minute drive from the Strip, sits around a 320-acre lake that during the winter supports a floating ice rink.

The village itself feels intimate and festive compared with the crowds walking the Strip, the atmosphere less about casino gambling action and more about shopping, dining and spending time outside. Stepping out from the understated casino, tourists are welcomed to MonteLago Village with white lights and live jazz in restaurant lounges. Parents whose playful kids dance around them pause for window shopping.

The floating ice-skating rink is center stage at the bottom of the village; a 40-foot Christmas tree, visible from the rink, sits just up the hill.

If it was hard for me to decide which to do first -- skate or get a Rocky Mountain Chocolate hot cocoa -- I can only imagine the panic a child must feel. But it's easy to make a whole afternoon or evening out of a visit to MonteLago. There are restaurants throughout the village including pizza by the slice, an Irish pub, Italian bistro and a steakhouse. A gelato shop just to the right of the skate rental booth tempts you while you're in line.

To get to the 40-by-80-foot ice rink, you need to cross a small bridge. In front of the rink is a candle-lighted picnic area where I put on my skates and first realized my fashionable jacket wasn't going to be enough to keep me warm.

Then I noticed that the young girls around me were wearing ski hats and mittens. I'm not sure why I was surprised.

The rink uses about 100 gallons of a vegetable based glycol mix, running through plastic tubing that is chilled to below freezing. Water is sprayed over the tubing, producing 4 to 6 inches of ice.

It is not big enough for a Zamboni to make the rounds between skates, but it does get swept and watered down regularly.

Building the rink was a joint idea among all the properties at Lake Las Vegas. As far as they know, they have the only floating ice rink in the country. It takes a crew of five about a week to set it up.

"This year things went off without a hitch, but in years past we have had to put several hundred bags of crushed ice on the rink to get it started," said Bob Crow, MonteLago Village executive director. "Fortunately, the weather cooperated this year, so we were able to make a good base prior to the rink opening."

This is the fourth year the rink is hosting skaters and the first year it will be open until Feb. 17, 2008 -- a month longer -- making it a Valentine's Day option. It is open to people of all ages, but except for a few couples out on dates, it was mostly young teens and parents with little children on the Friday night we went.

Every Friday night through Dec. 21, the village will be graced by carolers, and Santa will be holding court on Saturdays.

MonteLago Village offers a holiday skate package that starts at $64.50 per person based on double occupancy and includes one night in a village condominium, ice skating on the floating ice rink and skate rentals, (866) 564-4799.

And don't worry, that hot chocolate stand will be open as late as the ice rink.

In addition to the MonteLago's holiday rink, the Las Vegas Ice Center is open year-round.

Located seven miles west of the Strip, the Ice Center has public skates, coffee club morning skates for adults and eight-week "Learn to Skate" classes for those spending a whole season in Sin City.

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Ice times

MONTELAGO VILLAGE RESORT

Floating ice rink, open now until Feb. 17. Hours: 3 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Adults $15, children 12 and younger $12.

30 Strada di Villaggio, Henderson, NV 89011; (702) 564-4700, www.montelagovillage.com.

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LAS VEGAS ICE CENTER

Lessons, parties, public skating, west of the Strip. Hours: 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Fridays; 1 to 3 p.m. and 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays; 1 to 3 p.m Sundays (call for other days' schedule). Adults $7, children 5 to 18 $6, under 5 $5.

9295 W. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89147; (702) 320-7777, www.lasvegasice.com.

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