You no longer have to wait for the change of seasons to enjoy ice skating on a iceless rink.
There are many skaters (about 6 million, to be exact), that love to lace-up those skates and hit the ice.
From recreational skating to hockey and everything in between, ice skating is one of the silver linings of freezing temperatures.
It’s also a time for families to set up a backyard ice rink.
Backyard ice rinks allow hours of skating at your convenience, but the setup could sometimes be challenging.
However, thanks to technology and the availability of synthetic ice, a rink without ‘traditional ice’ is possible.
Benefits of a backyard rink
If you are unaware of what a backyard rink is or you are researching to set up your first one, it is a dedicated space in your backyard for ice skating.
Backyard rinks pop up during the winter months and are very popular in the United States and Canada.
The simplest rinks take lots of wood, water, and ingenuity and some sophisticated backyard rinks use refrigeration.
A common question you may have is, ‘why should I build my own in the first place?’
There are several benefits of building your rink:
- Skate on your own time: A neighborhood or commercial rink has specific open times. It can also take time out of your day to get there (or get the kids there). With a backyard ice rink, all you need to do is head outside, lace up your skates, then skate and play for as long as you like.
- A cost-saving/money-making measure: Personal rinks need an up-front investment. However, the cost savings are noticeable if you compare the time and money it takes to get similar use from a neighborhood rink. You can even use the rink to host gatherings, or private coaching sessions, earning some extra in the process.
- Bring out your engineering skills: If you’re looking for a hobby or passion project, you can maximize your backyard space, grab a friend, and get building.
- Improve your skating skills: Practice makes perfect. The more you skate, the better you’ll get at it. Having a backyard rink is a great way for kids to practice fundamentals in their favorite ice sport. It’s also an opportunity for you to pick up a new healthy hobby and get better at it faster.
- Bringing the neighborhood together: Backyard ice rinks are like a homing beacon for the neighborhood. Everyone hears about it and wants to get in on the action. A large rink in your backyard is a great way to connect with the community, bring kids together, and much more.
- Relieve your stress: There’s a common saying that goes, “the ice rink is like a second world where nothing else matters.” Competitive ice skaters often talk about the freeness of being on the ice. If you need some quiet, stress-free time, why not take a moment to yourself on the ice?
Now that you’ve seen the benefits, you may be thinking of building your own ice rink.
Most rink builders go the route of a traditional or refrigerated rink.
Traditional rinks use large amounts of water (at least 2000 gallons) in an enclosed space made with plywood.
These rinks depend on the weather and set after the First Freeze with winter.
Refrigerated rinks use water, a coolant, and a refrigeration system for a consistently solid rink that can last for months.
Yet, there is another way, without traditional ice.
Synthetic ice panels can help you get your backyard rink up and running quickly.
Your rink without traditional ice
Synthetic ice rinks have been around for decades.
They were mainly set up in commercial spaces like malls and hotels.
The availability of materials and technology allow synthetic ice to be customized for different spaces, bringing synthetic ice right to the home.
Synthetic ice is durable, solid polymer sheet made of unique polyethylene material.
The panels have interlocking ends that connect like puzzle pieces on your surface of choice for a smooth, skatable surface.
An iceless rink could be outfitted for any size and almost any space.
If you have a small room or space in your garage, tiles will allow fantastic skating.
A larger backyard rink or commercial space would need thicker, more durable synthetic panels.
How does an iceless rink compare to natural ice rinks?
You can set up an entire backyard rink with synthetic panels, but does it make sense?
People have been setting up natural rinks for years, so how does it compare to synthetic ice?
- Synthetic ice rinks are easy to install: The panels can fit seamlessly together and can be custom ordered for almost any space. Natural rinks need enough plywood to build the rink walls. From there, the rink will need a large tarp and enough water to fill the rink, which then needs to freeze.
- You’ll need patience: Are you anxious about skating? If you’re building a natural rink, you’ll need temperatures of 32 degrees or less at night for several days to harden the ground before filling the rink.
- Synthetic ice rinks are cost-effective: Rinks can save you money and even earn you money. However, you can save even more by going synthetic. The panels are a one-time cost upfront and can be reused for more winters to come.
- It’s environmentally friendly: Are you concerned about your environment? Going synthetic saves thousands of gallons of water. Not only would you have a cheaper water bill, but you’ll also do your part for the environment.
- It’s durable: Your synthetic ice panel can last for years, saving time, money, and energy. The length of the window for ice rinks are declining due to climate change. Not only would you have a rink for longer during the winter, but year-round if you choose.
- Beware of flooding: If the walls of your rink aren’t supported, the rink has a chance of icing over. In some cases, your backyard is at risk of flooding. An iceless rink would not need bracing. It could be easily dismantled and stored after use.
- It’s not natural ice: Synthetic ice tends to have more friction than natural ice. If you’re accustomed to skating on conventional rinks, you may feel the difference. The technology behind synthetic ice has significantly reduced friction over the years. However, synthetic ice helps with improving strength and speed.
Refrigerated ice rinks vs. synthetic ice
What about refrigerated ice?
Should you go with an iceless rink if you have access to a refrigerated rink?
Refrigerated ice rinks aren’t as popular for backyards because of the exhorbident costs it takes to maintain and run them.
However, there are some pros and cons with refrigerated ice:
- Refrigerated ice rinks require professional installation and maintenance.
- The refrigeration equipment, coolant, and setup cost can add up compared to a synthetic ice rink.
- Refrigerated ice rinks can stay around longer than natural links. It still won’t match up to the year-round use of an iceless rink. You or your kids can practice at any time, giving them an advantage when it’s time to compete.
- For the best experience, you’ll need to remove snow and resurface your rink with hot water. With synthetic ice, you’ll just need Slip Surface Conditioner occasionally added for the best skating experience.
How to go “ice-less.”
If you’re ready to skate or set up a rink for your kids and neighbors (and thinking of an iceless rink), there are a few simple steps you should follow:
- Make sure you measure your backyard with a tape measure. You can use wooden stakes and fishing wire or twine to mark off the space. When you’re purchasing synthetic ice, you’ll have a clear idea of the surface area and how many panels you’ll need to purchase.
- Walls are optional, but they add a clean look to your rink. You can invest in plexiglass walls, wood, or a rebounding dasher curb set.
- If you have an uneven backyard (most backyards have a slope), you’ll need to find a space that’s level. The same wooden stakes can help you check the slope of your yard. Use the steps on this link to measure the percentage of your slope. An uneven backyard will create a poor skating experience, so set a plywood floor before placing your synthetic ice panels.
- Get some help to connect the panels. Full-size panels can weigh as much as 80lbs, so you’ll need at least one friend to help you set up.
- A soft mallet will ensure the panels are snug. If the panels aren’t in place, you’ll feel it when you skate.
- Don’t forget to clean shavings with a soft brush or mop and apply conditioner as needed.
Synthetic or not, skating in your backyard is a fantastic experience.
You can duplicate the feeling of skating on natural ice with an iceless rink.
Your synthetic ice is easy to set up, maintain and lasts for years.
If you’re unsure of the measurements or type of tiles and panels you’ll need, you can reach out to our team for help.
We love seeing new backyard rinks.