Ice Rink Maintenance Tips
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Ice Rink Maintenance Tips

5. Inspect the rink for any big gouges or divots. Fill these in with a mixture of snow and water, commonly referred to as slush. Use a shovel to smooth the slush out, similar to mudding a drywall seam or using wood putty on a joint.   

6. Add water. On small rinks located close to outside faucets, a garden hose is usually adequate. However, many rinks are too large for the typical 5-gallon-per-minute (GPM) hose output, or are located too far away from water services. When either is the case, common practice is to auger or chisel a hole in the lake ice and use lake water as the source of fresh water.
For small rinks, you can simply chisel a hole large enough to dip in a 5-gallon bucket, and enlist fellow skaters to form a bucket brigade.

For larger rinks (or thicker ice that would require too much chiseling), a less labor-intensive method is to employ either a DC (battery) or AC (generator-powered) submersible pump. Simply drop the pump in, attach a hose to the output of the pump, and apply a thin layer of water over the prepped ice. For especially large rinks, it may be necessary to use a water-transfer pump with 2–3 horsepower, which can spit out several hundred GPM.

Most of the time, strategic water placement with a hose or with buckets will create a fairly even layer of water. Other times, a squeegee may be needed to push water to certain areas. Lake ice is known for becoming uneven during formation and as pressures build throughout the winter.

You’ll need to prep and re-flood the rink after each skating session or snow event, but most people quickly discover that rink flooding – especially when accompanied by friends, family and a beverage or two – is almost as much fun as the skating itself.
Q: Every winter, we like to ice skate on the lake near our cabin. What can I do to keep the ice smooth all season? – John, via email

A: Unless you have access to a neighborhood Zamboni rental, the best way to keep the ice smooth is by periodically flooding the rink. (To learn how to create an ice rink on your lake, click here.) Basically, this involves pumping or hosing a thin layer of water on top of the ice’s surface and filling in cracks and gouges that might otherwise send you toppling.

Flooding your lake rink is usually a fairly simple process, but here are some tips to keep you skating smoothly throughout the winter months:

1. Limit your ice-making duties to calm, windless evenings when the air temperature is 0–20°F. A few degrees either way won’t make a huge difference, but this is the premium temperature range for ice formation; ice won’t form too fast or too slow at these temperatures.  

2. Ensure the existing lake ice is thick enough. Four inches of clear, black ice is considered the minimum thickness for safe foot traffic. In the spring, ice can quickly go “rotten,” or lose its inherent structural strength. This is a good time to trade those ice skates in for mud boots.   

3. Avoid spiked boots or slip-on traction savers while flooding. It may seem counterintuitive from a safety standpoint, but wearing sharp-edged footwear will quickly scar the forming ice and render your efforts fruitless.

4. Make sure that the ice is completely free of snow. Depending on the size of your rink, you can remove snow with shovels, snowblowers or even an ATV with a snow plow. Take your time during snow removal, as even small amounts will turn to slush during the flooding process, creating lumps of ice that serve as great facilitators for introducing your butt to the cold ice. You’ll also want to clear away any ice chips after skating sessions. Many savvy rink masters make rink-cleaning duties a post-skating-session requisite, picking up a shovel as soon as the skates come off.
LAKE SKATING IN PARADISE – If you own a four-season cabin on a lake or pond, then you probably enjoy wintertime ice skating on your natural rink. A smooth, skater-friendly surface is the key to maximum fun.

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