With every years passing cold snap, needless to say, there were a lot of cautious parents out there worried about their kids getting frostbite after spending 15 minutes ice skating in the sub-arctic temperature.
Though the conditions may have been ideal for ice-making, skin exposure becomes a real issue for even the purest of hockey players and figure skaters.
With temperatures reaching dangerous levels, needless to say, staying indoors quickly became a priority.
You know it’s really getting crazy when northern Florida starts getting snow flurries and driving conditions throughout the USA become a total mess from coast to coast.
The Dangers of Outdoor Ice Skating
The snow can feel like an excellent opportunity to head out and go ice skating.
Even when the weather worsens, adults and kids find time to play hockey and practice figure skating on outdoor rinks.
Yet, outdoor skating during the cold winter months is not without risk.
Skating injuries are common, with about 50,000 recorded injuries occurring every year.
Some of the most common injuries include:
Hypothermia or Frostbite: Hypothermia occurs when you are exposed to cold temperatures for long periods.
Your core body temperature drops below 95 degrees, and you cannot generate more heat.
As a result, the body begins to shut down organs to preserve the brain.
As a result, you experience shivering, then dizziness, signs of confusion, and loss of coordination.
On rare occasions for skaters, hypothermia can lead to frostbite.
First-degree frostbite feels painful, with a numbing, burning sensation in the fingers or toes.
Bone bruises and fractures: Regardless of your skating sport, you will fall—a lot.
And with falls comes the possibility of injury.
Bone bruises are the most common, thanks to repeated falls on your butt, legs, or sides.
The impacted area feels painful and changes color, with swelling and soreness as other symptoms.
These can take a few days to a few weeks to fully recover.
Fractures of limbs, hands and feet are more severe, needing medical attention.
Outdoor ice is quite hard, and repeated falls while ice skating can sometimes lead to these injuries.
Ligament injuries: Ligaments and tendons connect muscle to bone and bone to bone, respectively.
These are responsible for flexibility and shock absorption.
Sports injuries often involve a stretched or ruptured tendon.
One collision or missed jump can lead to ligament injuries in the hands, wrist, knee, or foot.
Of course, ice sports like hockey are high-risk, contact sports.
However, the cold weather can lead to cold muscles, which increases the chances of injury.
Here’s How You Can Keep Everyone Safe
We love skating outdoors. The cold weather and occasional flurries bring added magic to the process.
There are some ways you or your kids can skate safely during winter. It’s all about taking the proper precautions before you hit the ice:
Check the weather: In a perfect world, the temperatures will stay constant during winter with no hail, snow, or suddenly plummeting temps.
Before you or your kids head out to skate, know what to expect during the day.
That way, everyone can head inside or take more precautions for a safe experience.
Bundle up: An extra layer of clothing can go a long way.
Of course, anyone who skates wants the option of speed and power.
They can feel weighed down by extra clothes.
However, keeping warm is the best way to protect against the elements.
Kids are also at risk of hypothermia and frostbite more than adults, especially on fingers, ears, and noses.
Make sure they have earmuffs and take frequent breaks in a warm space.
Don't forget to warmup: It’s tempting to put on your skates and head straight to the ice, even for a recreational skate. However, mixed with freezing temperatures, a cold body is a recipe for injury.
Muscles shorten or contract when we sit for hours or transit to the rink.
When you add cold temperatures, muscles and ligaments can feel even stiffer.
A quick warmup helps you lengthen and fire up your muscles and ligaments.
It also increases your core body temperature, reducing the chances of injury.
Learn how to fall: Falling is a part of ice skating and happens to even the best skaters.
It’s how we get bruises and even broken bones.
However, there’s a right and wrong way to fall.
If you learn to fall the right way, you avoid injury, especially your hands and arms.
Learning to fall is one of the first lessons skaters learn, but it does not hurt to have a refresher before heading to the ice.
As a rule of thumb, if you feel like you’re falling, try sitting down.
Check your surroundings: If you have access to a frozen lake or body of water, you’ll be excited to get on the ice ASAP.
However, you should take the time to check your ice before skating.
Cracks and other unstable parts of the ice can be dangerous.
If your kids are skating, take the time to assess the ice, ensuring they avoid these potential hazards.
Afterward, make sure that you or an adult supervise their skating.
Turn up the heat
Skating in the cold outdoors can help prepare you or your kids physically and mentally for competitive skating.
But there should be times these conditions could be a hindrance to practice.
What if there was a way to bypass the ice and turn up the heat?
Creating a home ice skating rink indoors was never much of an option In the old days, but not anymore.
Today's modern-day synthetic ice offers a viable solution to those who prefer to leave the wind chill where it belongs…. Outside!
It's also a great way to keep the sniffles away by working out in a controlled environment.
Hockey players and figure skaters have been taking advantage of this new-age product more and more with each passing season as the quality has improved dramatically over the years.
Skaters of all levels covet this product for its training capabilities and flexibility.
Synthetic ice is made of polyethylene; a product only invented in the 1960s.
This unique plastic allows you to use your metal skates to slip and slide to your heart's desire.
Originally it was primarily used commercially for malls and large indoor rinks.
Over the years, technology and availability have allowed synthetic ice tiles and panels for the home.
There must be a slipping agent or compound added before use for synthetic ice to work effectively.
Thanks to technology, we have created infused ice with this special compound already added to the polyethylene.
As a result, infused ice brings improved skating with minimal maintenance.
Benefits of an Indoor Synthetic Ice Rink
Synthetic ice comes in small tiles or larger panels that you connect like puzzle pieces.
This special mat can be installed in less than an hour, depending on the location.
These tiles are also durable, lasting for a decade or more.
That means you get maximum use out of your investment.
These are several more benefits to opting for an indoor rink instead of heading to a commercial rink or building your own.
More Practice Time
Garage synthetic ice rinks have been popping up throughout the US as an ideal space that can be utilized for an indoor rink.
A typical single garage area measures roughly 12' x 20' and allow plenty of room for skaters to pivot and turn and work on their inside and outside edges.
For figure skaters, it's a great place to work on their spins and skating routine.
Likewise, hockey players have enough space to hone their deking and stick-handling skills and strengthen their stride.
Their practice time is limited for kids and parents who depend on local or school rinks.
Since other kids (and adults) are competing for that space, you barely get an hour a week if you're practicing on the weekends.
This limited time, coupled with the hassle of transport, can discourage both kids and parents.
With a rink in your garage, your kids can practice for hours or skate for fun.
Even if there is a coefficient of friction, the time on the ice compared to the competition is unmatched.
A study by Rice University, Princeton University, and Michigan State University showed that consistent practice could increase your performance by at least 20%.
A synthetic ice rink could be the difference-maker for kids trying to make the team.
Put the Hose Away
The thought of not having to worry about your hose freezing up for once is one of the many advantages of owning your synthetic ice rink.
You can create your own rink in your backyard. It’s a cool, fulfilling project that takes a bit of skill and a lot of water.
In fact, we have some helpful content on how you can design and build your backyard rink.
During the build, you have to deal with the elements.
More snow means the possibility of a frozen hose and a frozen-over rink.
By choosing a synthetic ice rink, you can put the hose away and have fun indoors.
Those who reside in warm climate areas can have a little bit of Canada in their backyard.
They can benefit from synthetic ice panels, too, since they can’t make their own backyard rinks.
The rinks will only continue to help grow the game of hockey in areas where it’s not quite as popular.
Save Time and Money.
Figure skaters could take lessons at home on their own time without running back and forth to the rink.
The same goes for hockey players.
When you add up the commute, extra coaching, and equipment, it begins to burn a hole in your pocket.
And if you decide on building and maintaining your backyard rink, it can be both time-consuming and costly.
Every year, Pete Sven of DIY PETE builds a massive rink on his land in the Rockies.
His videos on building and maintaining the rink rack up hundreds of thousands of views.
People comment on how challenging it is to maintain the rink due to the weather.
You may not be building a rink that large or at that altitude, but it just shows the time, effort, and resources needed for your rink.
A large, indoor synthetic rink can feel like a solid upfront investment.
However, you’ll spend more time enjoying the ice than making sure you can skate on it.
Safer Practice Periods
As mentioned before, hockey and figure skating mean the possibility of injury.
A particular fear of ice athletes is getting injured during practice and not competitive play.
They don’t get a chance to show their talents on the ice.
If you’re looking to increase your practice times, you also increase the risk of injury.
Falling on synthetic ice is not as damaging as on natural ice.
Skaters are also mindful of movements in a smaller home rink.
Parents can breathe easier, and everyone can get more practice time.
Train in the off-season
Unless you’re a professional athlete or living far North, skating is a seasonal sport.
Once the ice melts, the ice skates go into the closet until the following season.
This can feel like a bit of a bummer for ice skating lovers.
Some kids switch to rollerblades, but it can be a tough transition back to ice skates when winter returns.
If you have a synthetic ice rink, you’re not limited by the seasons.
You can train right through the year, honing your skills so you can crush it when it’s time to compete.
Professional athletes depend on synthetic ice in their homes to practice specific skills during the year.
The flatter, more rigid surface also imitates hockey ice allowing for faster skating and a more realistic puck movement.
These benefits give them a competitive edge that was once impossible a few decades ago.
Skating hot vs. cold
Some skaters have genuine concerns about skating indoors and not on natural ice.
These are normal, but we can safely say that there will be no drop-off in performance.
For starters, when you’re indoors, you can guarantee a consistent temperature instead of outdoors.
Commercial and competitive rinks maintain a set temperature for the ice.
However, if you have an adjustable thermostat for that room, you can slightly lower the temperature to create a similar environment.
You or your kids can also skate in full gear or just some sweats.
The complete kit improves their power while the sweats increase their speed.
Synthetic ice also has a higher coefficient of friction than regular ice.
Our infused technology helps the variance be 10% or less.
This friction feels similar to a rink that needs to be resurfaced.
The added force needed to skate improves power, which in turn improves speed on the natural ice.
The most significant difference is often the mental game.
Some skaters feel that skating on synthetic ice in a warm space may dull the senses.
You can’t completely emulate the ice, water vapor, and natural feeling of the ice.
We disagree. Training in any condition gets you ready and pumped up to perform.
Then, when it’s time to go, you won’t feel the difference.
You’ll remember when you scored that goal or landed that jump.
I think if we could all paint the perfect picture we would all own a natural ice rink in our backyard under ideal weather conditions year-round but it ain't gonna happen.
As climates change, backyard ice rinks are at risk of snowstorms, wind, hail, and other issues that damage the surface.
Experts also expect the skating season to reduce in the coming decades due to climate change.
The fact is there are now other options that make perfect sense and can achieve the same results in the comfort of your own home.
We no longer have to be prisoners of the ice arena in deciding when or where our next session on the ice will occur.
Skating throughout the year on synthetic ice has the benefits of improving our stick handling, increasing our stamina, and reducing injury.
You also maximize the use of your garage or other indoor space so your kids can practice and play in a constructive way.
Synthetic ice panels can feel a bit confusing at first.
What size do you need?
How do you take care of it?
We can answer those questions and more, helping you to have the best experience possible.
Our team has built rinks for all spaces and all seasons.
Let’s get your rink up and running so we can get you some ice and turn up the heat!