How to keep your rink in top shape
Even the smoothest ice needs to be maintained. Here's how
Before moving any snow
Get out your auger and ensure that the ice is at least 20 cm thick. If there’s any doubt that it’s frozen evenly, check in a few spots.
To clear a smallish rink (about six by 12 metres), suitable for a fun skate with the kids, you’ll need nothing more than a good shovel. A regulation hockey rink measures 26 metres wide by 61 metres long and, unless you’ve got five strong friends with good shovels, you’ll need a serious snowblower or, better yet, an ATV outfitted with a plow (with a good 30 cm of ice underneath to support its weight).
Flooding the ice
I’ve had the best results using a contraption inspired by the tail end of a Zamboni. I built a T-shaped wand with off-the-shelf ¼”-dia. plastic pipes and fittings, designed for in-ground sprinkler systems, from a big box store.
- You’ll need two 24″ pipes and one 36″ pipe, plus a T-fitting, a hose adapter, a hose fitting, and two end caps.
- Drill a line of holes spaced about 10 cm apart along the arms of the T. Attach the wand to a garden hose and use it like a push broom, laying down a wide swath of water, close to the ice.
- Flood at night when temperatures dip and the wind is weak, and only apply a thin layer of water—just enough to fill in blade marks.
Resurfacing the rink
If you have a winterized line or municipal water supply at the cottage, resurfacing is a snap. To flood the rink without a source of running water, you’ll need to pump water from a hole augered in the ice.
For small rinks, a friend operating a manual diaphragm pump (I use a Bosworth Guzzler) attached to the garden hose will work fine. For larger rinks, use a gas- or battery-powered transfer pump to move the water. Cover the bored hole with an insulated box to prevent it from freezing up.
- To bore a hole in a frozen lake you need a hand-cranked ice auger, essentially a giant spiral bit with replaceable blades.
- With the blades on the ice, just turn the handle and up comes a satisfying pile of shaved ice. Resist pushing too hard; let the auger do the work. If the ice is thick, withdraw the auger occasionally to clear accumulated shavings.
- Don’t bang the tool on the ice to clear slush: You’ll knock the blades’ angle—critical for a good cut—out of whack.
- A basic, under-$100 auger is fine for making a few holes a season. More expensive, gas-powered models save work, but are overkill unless you’re a dedicated ice fisher. Look for a 6″-dia. model (bigger ones take more muscle-power) with curved, stainless steel blades. If you keep the blades sharp and lubricated, and dry and cover them immediately after use, you’ll be rewarded with smooth cuts for many years.
This article was originally published on November 15, 2010