For the first time in more than 20 years, residents and visitors will be able to lace up their skates this weekend and take to a dedicated ice rink in Aviemore.
After years of planning and attempts to bring back the loved facility, work has finally paid off.
The 12 metre (39ft) by 20 metre (65ft) natural ice rink is due to open on Saturday.
The rink is also benefiting from the generosity of the Macdonald Aviemore Resort, where it is located.
Bosses have permitted use of the site of the old rink for seven months – free of charge.
Mammoth fundraising efforts
Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust (A&GCT) have tirelessly fundraised towards the project since March.
More than £110,000 has been gathered.
Duncan Swarbrick, director and chairman of A&GCT, said: “There was an awful lot of people who used to use the old rink.
“It was a really good site – so it was a real loss that it was taken down and not replaced.
“Hopefully if this goes well we can develop it into a full size more permanent rink in the future.”
Approximately £60,000 was generated locally through donations from residents and businesses.
Fundraising events have included a children’s initiative for the ice bucket challenge, a quiz, a golf tournament and two raffles.
Significant donations in kind, where services are offered instead of money, have been granted from local businesses, totalling more than £25,000.
Ambition to restore Aviemore ice rink to its former glory
The rink will return initially as a seasonal rink, with the ambition of restoring the facility to its former glory.
It is good news for winter sports enthusiasts who usually descend on the area but have been limited in opportunities whilst the funicular railway to Cairngorm Mountain is out of action.
Those behind the project have stressed that for now, “baby steps” must be taken.
Mr Swarbrick added: “With the hill, obviously it is disappointing that the uplift has been delayed, but I think with something like an ice rink gives a different offering.
“My hope is that if we make it a success this winter, then it makes it easier to go to bigger funders in future and say ‘this works and is successful’ then we can start looking more seriously at something bigger.
“At this stage, we are just so focused on setting this up. That is a conversation for later.”
He continued: “The involvement of so many of the community throughout Badenoch and Strathspey, whether in fundraising, helping with the build, donating, and donating in kind, is what makes this truly special and a privilege to be involved in.
“To me, that is what really gives it that positivity and that feel good factor behind it.”
Locals pull together
Over the past three weeks, more than 40 volunteers have lent their time to put the finishing touches on the rink.
A general manager has been appointed in Amanda Clinton, with recruitment for nine paid roles to take place.
A&GCT have stressed that the roles, a mix of part time and full time, will pay the living wage.
Director Mike Dearman said: “We started fundraising in anger in March to pay for the rink and marquee and we have raised over £100,000.
“That is just amazing, especially in the current climate.
“It is just brilliant we have been able to do something so quickly and it has been so positive.
“We have had donations from local companies. We have had tradesmen, having worked a full day, coming in and working another shift for us in the evening for nothing.”
‘Winter sports is in our DNA’
Mr Dearman added: “It has been just lovely to see everyone pull together and make it a success.
“Aviemore is a wonderful place but in terms of infrastructure, there is not a huge amount here. I am starting to understand the loss when the ice rink went away.
“Winter sports is in our DNA here – we are a ski town – so it’s one step closer to gaining what we once had.
“It has been a real learning curve for us.”
Reduced price for local residents
Locals from Dalwhinnie to Cromdale can also benefit from reduced fees.
Adults are able to access the rink for £7.50 and children for £5.
Visitors will be charged the slightly higher rate of £15 per adult and £13 per child.