Make Your Own Ice Rink

By Grace Dunstedter

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    Have you ever thought of making an ice-skating rink in your own backyard? If you live in a climate where the weather stays below freezing for long periods of time, you can have a lot of fun ice-skating safely.

    All you need is a flat, level area on your lawn, away from the house, preferably on the north side. When the first snow comes, shovel off an area about 12′ (3.6 m) square or larger. Form a rim of snow about 1′ (30 cm) high and 1′ (30 cm) thick around the rink. With hands and feet, pat and stomp the snow until the rim is very firm. Be sure to repair it after each snowfall.

    When the temperature drops to at least 20º F (-7º C), adjust the nozzle of a garden hose to a fine, even spray, and sprinkle the entire rink until the water freezes 1/2″ (1.25 cm) deep. This will give the rink a good foundation. If the ground is porous, you can put down a plastic sheet before sprinkling, to prevent seepage.

    If puddles begin to form, stop adding water until these places level out and freeze. Once this first layer of ice is solid and even, take off the nozzle, lay the hose down on the rink, and let the water run until it is 2″ to 3″ (5 cm to 8 cm) deep and frozen solid. Be sure to turn off the water and to remove the hose before it freezes too.

    If you do not know how to ice-skate, you can stop building up the layers of ice at this point. This kind of rough surface is a big help for a beginner to learn to keep his balance.

    When you feel confident that you can keep your balance while skating, make a smooth surface for your rink by adding another “layer” of water each night for several nights and letting it freeze. Each time you add a layer of water, lightly spray your snow rim, too, to keep it frozen.

    When your rink is about 8″ (20 cm) thick, it’s ready to skate on. You can skate on it with safety until the temperature is 50º F (10º C). Your rink will even survive a week of 60º F (16º C) weather. New snow must always be shoveled off, and any leaves or debris that collect on it must be removed with a broom.

    After each period of ice-skating, clean the ice chips away with a snow shovel or broom so that they will not freeze in place and create a rough surface. You can do this job on ice skates if you don’t backtrack. Remember to disconnect and drain your hose each time after using it or it could freeze and break.

    Once you’ve completed your rink, why not celebrate?—have an ice-skating party with your family or friends. Build a fire in an indoor or outdoor fireplace, and when everyone has finished skating, or wants a break, toast marshmallows and enjoy mugs of hot apple juice.

    Illustrated by Dick Brown