About this time I give in to my Hans Brinker fantasy of the perfect skating party -- no one's toes go numb with cold, no one's nose turns a bright and runny red and no one sprawls across the ice. Instead, we glide over pond or canal, wound around with bright scarves, always graceful in the clear, cold air. And we work up gargantuan appetites which only can be satisfied with foods we avoid the rest of the year -- menus to be filed under Fat.
Thermoses of hot chocolate with whipped cream, Irish coffee, or mulled wine or cider for skating breaks. Afterward, sauerbraten with dumplings, meat pies with flaky crusts, hot sausages like boudin blanc with mashed potatoes, or garlicky ones with crusty breads. For dessert, heavy, rich cakes or puddings -- mit schlag, mit schlag, mit schlag.
If you have not already found a private lake or stream, the exercise necessary to work up to all this food can be taken at several places in the area.
The rink at the Mall, 9th Street and Constitution Avenue, right near the Sculpture Garden, has man-made ice, which means you don't have to wait for a long, cold spell to use it. Admission is $2.35 for adults, $1.75 for children 12 years or under, for 2-hour sessions; $1.25 for the one-hour, luncheon sessions. The rink also rents skates for 95 cents, requiring that you leave an I.D. -- driver's license, credit card or such -- as security. They ask for one such item for each rental; if you're bringing six children, load up with credit cards.
On Monday through Friday, the Mall skating sessions are at 11 a.m.-noon; 12:15-1:15 p.m.; 1:30-2:30 (luncheon sessions all); 2:45-4:45; 5-7; 7:15-9:15. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, hours are 9-11 a.m.; 11:30-1:30 p.m.; 2-4; 4:30-6:30; 7-9. There also is a moonlight session on Friday, Saturday and holiday evenings. It runs from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.
The Mall area has an outdoor space for eating, plus a snack bar for hot chocolate or fast foods, if you simply can't wait. Tickets can be purchased a half hour before each session. They'll also sharpen your skates for you -- $2.50 and you have to leave them overnight.
The C&O Canal, from Georgetown to Great Falls, is more in the Hans Brinker tradition. It freezes naturally and you have to bring your own skates. It also is free. Do not venture out on it until you call 299-2026 to check on ice conditions. At best, people who skate on thin ice wind up in a wet and uncomfortable condition.
The Cabin John rink at 10610 Westlake Drive, behind Montgomery Mall, is open from the last week of October until the last week in March. It is partially covered, which keeps rain and snow off, but doesn't keep you warm. They also have two-hour sessions, with adults paying $1.75; children, 17 or under, $1, and senior citizens, $1. Skate rental there is 85 cents and all they require for security is your shoes. They have a warming room where you can change to skates, lockers and a snack bar.
Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 9:30-11:30 a.m., 12:30-2:30 p.m., 3:30-5:30 and 8-10. the 8-to-10 p.m. session is not held on Wednesdays when, instead, there is an adult-only session from 8:30 to 10:30. There also are two family sessions, one Sunday from noon to 2 p.m., another on Sunday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with family being defined as parent and children 12 years of age or younger. Other Saturday sessions are 3-5 p.m. and 8-11.Sunday sessions also run from noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.
The rink at Wheaton Regional Park, Orebaugh and Arcola Avenues in Wheaton, has the same amenities, admission and skate rental as the one at Cabin John.
The hours, however, are different. Monday, adults only, 9:30-11:30 a.m.; general admission 12:30-2:30 p.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 3:30-5:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 9:30-11:30 a.m.; 12:30-2:30 p.m.; 3:30-5:30; 7:30-9:30. Thursday, 9:30-11:30 a.m.; 12:30-2:30 p.m.; and (adults only) 8-10 p.m. Friday, 9:30-11:30 a.m.; 12:30-2:30 p.m.; 3:30-5:30; 8-11. Saturday, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; 3:30-5:30; 8-11. Sunday, 9:30-11:30 a.m. (families); noon-2 p.m.; 3-5; 5:30-7:30.
The Herbert W. Wells Ice Rink, Calvert Road and Kenilworth Avenue, in College Park, also is partially enclosed to keep the elements, if not the cold, out. Admission is $1 for children 17 years and under; $1.50 for adults, and 90 cents for people 60 and over. Skate rental is $1. They also have a warming room and snack bar and the only restrictions they place on people bringing their own food and drink is that there be no glass.
Hours are Monday, noon to 2 p.m.; Tuesday, noon to 2; 3-5 and 7-9; Wednesday, 9:30-11:30 a.m.; noon-2 p.m.; 3-5; 7-9. Thursday, noon-2 p.m.; 3-5; 7:30-9:30 (adults only). Friday, 9:30-11:30 a.m.; noon-2 p.m.; 3-5; 5:15-6:15 (free-style session); 7-9; 9:30-11:30. Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; 2-4; 7-9; 9:30-11:30. Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; 2-4; 7-9; 9:30-11:30 (the last is a pick-up hockey session for $3).