It was a bright and sunny day as I navigated my way around the behemoth that is the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center to Glacier Point, the outdoor area that features activities like ice skating, tubing, and my destination: ice bumper cars.
I’ve always been a fan of bumper cars. Whether it was the thrill of driving pre-license or the pleasure of taking out my ire on my little sister without fear of punishment from my parents, I always headed to the bumper cars first when the opportunity presented itself. Now, as a supposed grown-up, the idea of translating that thrill to ice was impossible to turn down. Thus, I found myself settled in a brightly colored contraption that’s essentially an inner tube on caster wheels on a wee ice rink at the Gaylord.
Ice Bumper Cars are the newest toy to hit resorts in Colorado and across the country. The company responsible for this craze, the aptly named Ice Bumper Cars (IBC) International, is based in Steamboat Springs. Howelsen Ice Complex employee Mike Farny crafted the first ice bumper cars after tinkering around with amusement park bumper cars that were deemed trash at the rink. Farny improved and updated the design, and in 2017, the ice arena in Steamboat received the first cars.
“We didn’t really know what was going to happen,” said Andrew Farny, operations manager at IBC International and one of Mike’s two sons that works in the business. “It might’ve been like a one sale thing. And luckily enough within like a week of them being there, someone was on vacation and they owned a rink out east, and they said, ‘These things are awesome. Can we get some?’ So we’re like, sure. And then it grew out of there and it just kind of spread like wildfire.”
As of 2018, IBC International has cars in eight states across the country, including various locations around Colorado and even Bryant Park in New York City.
At the Gaylord, it only took a few seconds for me to realize the appeal of the cars. With a joystick for each hand, steering is both easy and a bit difficult.
“One of the really cool things about the bumper car is there is a learning curve,” explained Farny. “You’ll have people get out of the cars after 15 minutes and be like, ‘I was just getting the hang of it. I want to go again.’”
The easiest move to master is the spin: Push one joystick forward and the other backward and your car will deliver a dizzying experience that’s impossible not to enjoy. Steering is not the main goal because, as you slip and slide across the ice, you’re bound to hit someone at some point, whether it’s Aunt Marge or that dad out with his kids.
There are lots of ways to get into the winter-loving spirit in Colorado, but if you’re looking for an opportunity to combine family bonding with stress relief (and perhaps retaliation for that pair of socks you received), ice bumper cars is a cool new way to achieve all three.
If you go… Though some locations are renting the cars, others have purchased them for year-round fun and shenanigans.
Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center
When: Now until January 5, 2020
Cost: $8.99 per driver (one person per car) for about 4 minutes
Snowmass Base Village
The Collective Snowmass
When: December 18 to January 2, 2020
Cost: $20 for 10 minutes
Howelsen Ice Complex
Cost: $12 for 20 minutes
Dobson Ice Arena
When: December 30 and beyond (year-round)
Cost: $10 for 15 minutes.
Arriving January 2020