Christmas Eve on Ice

There is perhaps no score more associated with Christmas than The Nutcracker. Countless productions have been set to Tchaikovsky's soaring music, originally conceived as a two-act ballet, that evokes sugarplums, winter wonderlands, dancing snowflakes and everything that is sweet about the holidays.

Sun Valley puts its own stamp on this holiday classic by presenting a version of it, each Christmas Eve, on ice. As dusk, and often snow, falls on December 24, Sun Valley's beautiful and iconic outdoor rink transforms to a magical candy land with dozens of skaters, from the tiniest children to professionals, performing this favorite for hundreds of onlookers.

Some of this year's Snow Angels have performed in the Christmas Eve ice show for years and it is something they greatly look forward to

With a cast of 60, dozens of costumes, professional choreography and lots of quick changes, staging this perennially popular production is no small feat. Work begins on the show months in advance with rehearsals and costume fittings starting week's before Christmas.

"The Sun Valley Company really comes together every year to make this a great show," said Scott Irvine, rink manager and show producer. "It is a huge and coordinated effort. Obviously everyone sees the skaters and it is an amazing opportunity for our young athletes, but countless other people also make it possible. These include our great groundskeepers who keep the bleachers snow-free!"

One of the other people who makes the show possible is Daisy Langley who oversees the costume shop. In the impromptu dressing room located on the lower level of the Sun Valley Pavilion, it is the job of Langley and Holly Wheeler to fit dozens of skaters into their colorful, festive and sometimes historic costumes that are cared for and preserved year after year. In the weeks leading up to the big show, queues of skaters slip into darling outfits as Holly and Daisy carefully pin, hem and tuck, making sure each cast member has a perfect fit.

"When the racks reappear in December, I always know the holiday season has truly begun," said Wheeler. "There are so many great memories in the costumes and so many chances to watch our young skaters grow and evolve as they get new parts each year. The cast of the show is really like a family whether skaters have participated for 20 years or for two."

Many costumes are very special. "The pond scene costumes and adult cake costumes all came from Disney probably close to ten years ago," Wheeler explained. "Years ago, I sewed the children's cake costumes with hula hoops holding out those skirts and Daisy has lovingly hand-crafted many gorgeous costumes including the ballerina doll and the little snowflakes."

For Langley, the Nutcracker is always a highlight of the year. From the costumes to the organized chaos of backstage, Langley has been a part of Christmas Eve in Sun Valley for decades. "There is always so much energy and excitement for the show," she said, "and it makes us all really happy to put on such a special production for the hundreds of guests who come to enjoy it."

The costume shop is full of treasures: bright colors, sequins, tulle and many memories

In my family, with two daughters who are competitive figure skaters, the Sun Valley Christmas Eve Ice Show is something we look forward to each year. This year, my girls step into the roles of the Candy Land Queen, a Snow Angel and the Dew Drop Flower. When we started eight years ago, they were among the darling groups of little girls portraying revelers in the party scene, pieces of candy (in full Hershey kiss and cake costumes) and little snowflakes. Now they are among the ‘big girls' and love spending time with the entire cast and helping the younger skaters backstage and on the ice. It really isn't Christmas without the show.

With this year's exciting renovation of the historic Sun Valley Lodge, to best enjoy next week's show, as well as the torch light parade down Dollar and fireworks that follow, please be aware of the following protocols.

  • Bleacher seats may be claimed beginning at 3 p.m. when gates open.
  • Standing room will be available on the Lodge terrace and in front of the Lodge.
  • The ice rink will close at 2 p.m. on the 24th offering a general session from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  
  • Expect special appearances from some marquee names, including Sun Valley's fanciful and talented carolers and maybe even the big man himself.
  • There will be greeters at the rink to answer questions and help guests get seated.
  • The show starts at 5:30 p.m. and the run time is approximately 45 minutes.
  • There is no charge for the show.

Sun Valley's Christmas Eve on Ice is choreographed by the exceptionally talented Gia Guddat. Jay Cutler is responsible for the wonderful lighting and sound. Scott Irvine serves as show producer, Brent McCarty is backstage manager with the support of Marilyn Alcamo and Holly Wheeler. Many others also make this possible, including the parents and skaters who commit to numerous rehearsals.

And all the effort is very worth it to Irvine. "Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and we love the build up to the show and just creating a beautiful winter environment at the rink for all our guests," he said. "We all look forward to stringing the lights at the outdoor rink and decorating the skate house. It's something we take a lot of pride in. The ice show is a huge part of it. It has always been a Sun Valley tradition, one that many families base their whole holiday around, and we can't wait to share it with everyone this year."

My sweet little ghosts of Christmas past remind of how many years our family has enjoyed being a part of the Christmas Eve on Ice family

When the strains of the Waltz of the Flowers or the Sugar Plum fairy's solo begin, it is impossible not to be carried away, like Clara on her magic bed, to the land of sweets where everything is beautiful, a delight for the senses. If this is already your Christmas tradition, welcome back. If it is your first time, bundle up, grab a blanket and be ready to start a new tradition for your entire family.

Enjoy and see you there!




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