At first glance, it looks like an inner tube on steroids: A brightly colored tube fitted with a molded seat for the bum and a Battlezone-style joystick for each hand for steering. At rinks across the country, kids and adults are climbing into (then bouncing off each other) in Ice Bumper Cars, the newest toys to hit the ice—as of Monday [Dec. 30, 2019], folks in the Vail area can get in on the action, too, at Dobson Ice Arena, the proud owner of 12 Ice Bumper Cars.
Jared Biniecki, director of Vail Village's signature indoor rink, says that the plan is to host one and a half to two-hour sessions several days a week; times and dates will vary as the bumper cars are being fit into available time slots around hockey, skating clubs, etc.
“We’re always looking to find alternative ways to maximize our ice,” Biniecki explains.
As with most ice rinks, there are times when Dobson Ice Arena sits empty. There’s a drop when kids are back in school, too. Having the Ice Bumper Cars is another way to utilize the rink.
“We’re a tourist destination and I just thought [Ice Bumper Cars] would work in Vail,” Biniecki adds. “I think it’s something families can do at an affordable rate in Vail. It’s a little different and exciting and new and we’re just trying to keep it fresh."
On opening day with the cars and virtually no advance marketing, Biniecki sold 42 rides. “I think it’s going to be good,” he says.
Ice Bumper Cars are fairly new to the ice rink scene. Founder Mark Farny was working at Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat Springs when he modified and restored 12 old bumper cars to run on the ice. The attraction was so popular that Farny and his two sons, Luke and Andrew, founded a business named Ice Bumper Cars (IBC) International. In 2017, the Farnys refined and modified the design, incorporating new technology and opening franchises at venues in more than eight states — including the ice rink at Bryant Park in New York City this winter.
The cars are manufactured and assembled in the U.S., mostly in Colorado. In addition to the handcrafted shell, one of thing that sets these cars apart are the joysticks.
“One of the more exciting things for everybody is we have proportional joysticks and motor wheels so it's really intuitive for people…it's very similar to driving a car with the gas pedal,” says Andrew Farny, operations manager at IBC International.
Farny notes that there was a bit of a learning curve for driving the cars; I found this out first-hand on my inaugural ride. However, after a bit of testing with the joysticks (push both forward to go forward, both back to go back), I found a groove and was soon scooting along the ice, bumping into the other cars and into the rails.
The other move to master? The spin.
“At some point during the ride, everybody will sit in one spot with one joystick forward and one back and just spin in circles really fast,” Farny said. “There is absolutely no learning curve and everybody always screams and has fun doing that.”
If you’re looking for something to entertain the kids (ages 5 and up, and at least 42", please) or want to take the tubes for a spin yourself, head to Dobson Ice Arena. These bumper cars are some of the most fun you’ll have sliding on ice this season – no skates (or crampons) or required.
The Details: Ice Bumper Cars at Dobson Ice Arena are available Monday – Thursday, starting Dec. 30, 2019 (dates and times vary). Rides are $10 for 15-minute sessions and available for walk-ins or by reservation online. Visit vailrec.com or call 970-479-2271. 2-3:30 p.m.