So you decided to start your search for the best synthetic ice for figure skaters?
Look no further as we have a lot of information here for you to review and help with your research.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of surfaces that are available and which one is best suited for your needs.
We'll also take a look at some of the benefits of owning your own synthetic surface and creating your own home training center.
There's a lot of information out there, so it's important to take the time to ascertain what would be the ideal product for you before pulling the trigger on a purchase.
So whether you're a beginner just starting out or an experienced competitive skater, read on to find out more about the best synthetic ice skating surface for you!
What is the Purpose of Your Rink?
It's important to understand what goals you're trying to achieve by owning your own synthetic ice rink for your home or business.
Having unlimited ice available whenever you want is a huge advantage for any skater, but only if they utilize it.
Having your own "Home Ice Advantage" can be a great thing as long as you take the time to lace up your skates and get out there on the ice.
Here are five good reasons why any figure skater may want to consider owning their own home synthetic ice rink:
1. Develop a Proper Skating Technique
Having the extra time to practice at home affords any skater the time to work on the basics and build a solid skating foundation and advance their overall skills.
By doing so, they will get the most out of each stride and build an overall sense of confidence when performing all of their skating elements and maneuvers.
Once a new skill has been learned, they can challenge themselves to the point of failure and take their skating to the next level while building muscle memory.
2. Increase Speed and Power
Another huge advantage to owning your own synthetic ice rink is the "Positive Friction" that is added to every workout every time to step foot on the ice.
The additional surface friction of skating on artificial ice requires roughly 5-10% more effort, thus naturally strengthening each skating muscle group being worked on.
Think of it like a baseball player that puts a weighted doughnut on his/her bat before stepping into the batter's box.
Once you get used to training on synthetic ice, your feet will naturally feel a lot lighter the next time you go to the rink and take to the ice.
3. Improve Footwork and Agility
A lot of the basic figure skating elements can be taught in a small area and do not require the luxury of skating on open ice to work on your footwork and agility.
The great thing about practicing your moves in a smaller space is that you quickly repeat the drill if a mistake is made or you want to hone and strengthen each specific skill.
You'll find that you spend a lot more time training and less time floating around between drills on a smaller surface which helps you get the most out of each practice.
Once you start to see the results you were hoping for, you can start to speed things up, which will get those feet moving quicker with each drill as you continue to build confidence.
4. Enhance Your Jumps and Spins
Jumps and spins are two of the most popular elements that require endless hours of practice to get it just right, and having your own synthetic ice rink will only help you get the desired results that much quicker.
You can use the time at home to record your progress and make corrections where needed as you continue to improve each of these important skills.
Having the extra ice time will also enable you to develop your balance quicker when learning different ways to work on each spin.
You'll be happy to know that you do not require a lot of space to learn or improve jumps and spins on synthetic ice, so it's not necessary to create too large of a rink if that's the main reason for your purchase.
5. Practice your Routine
Once you and your coach have choreographed your routine and music, you can prepare yourself mentally for any competition rink in the comfort of your own home.
This goes back to the confidence factor, which is a great advantage to any competitive skater who wants to place well at any event they may choose to enter.
Having the time to mentally prepare yourself away from the rink and spotlight is a benefit that any skater would love to have when trying to compete at the next level.
As they say, "Practice makes perfect," and although we all know there's no such thing as perfect, a little extra practice never hurt anyone, and you'll get that on your own home synthetic ice rink.
What Size Area and Budget?
The next thing to consider when choosing a synthetic ice skating surface is the type of skating drills you'll be doing.
If you're just starting out, you may just want a small surface until you feel more comfortable on your edges and then grow your rink over time.
For more experienced skaters, you may want a surface that is faster and more responsive with an area large enough to practice all of your skating elements.
Throughout the years, we here at PolyGlide Ice have developed surfaces that address any skater's needs to help them achieve their goals, from beginners to competitive Olympians.
Knowing the main purpose of your rink will help you figure out what type of surface would be ideal for the space you have within the budget you have set out for your project.
- Size of Your Space
- Portable or Dedicated Panel
The size of your rink should be determined by what your general needs are along with the space you have available.
If it's for training, then the size of the skater should also be considered and what drills they need to perform on the surface to accomplish their goals.
It's typical for people to think that they need a large surface, but nothing could be further from the truth if the purpose of the rink is solely for off-ice training.
You'd be surprised how much can be accomplished with just a little bit of space.
Portable or Dedicated Rink
The reason why there are so many types of synthetic ice panels is mainly that everyone's needs are different.
To help you understand the type of panels, we broke it down into two basic categories:
If you're a family or person with limited space, then you may want to consider a portable panel that can be installed and disassembled easily for quick usage.
Here at PolyGlide Ice, we currently offer portable panels in both our Home Starter Kit and Pro-Glide "Cube" commercial-grade models.
Both of these panels are light enough to be handled by a single adult during the installation process.
Also, if you have limited access to the rink location, a portable panel makes it easier to maneuver into hard-to-reach areas.
Budget (All in or Grow Your Rink)
The nice thing about having a large selection of panels to pick and choose from is that you can choose to grow your rink a little at a time or all at once.
Our larger PolyGlide Ice Pro-Glide panel is ideal for any dedicated space or large rink as it requires fewer seams overall to complete your rink layout.
Keep in mind that larger panels are heavier and bulkier than synthetic ice tiles and are best handled by two people during the installation process.
If you decide you would prefer to grow your rink a little at a time, then you could choose any panel you like with a smaller start-up investment and order additional panels down the road to help finance your project.
What Types Should You Choose?
As you begin your search in your quest to find the best synthetic ice for figure skating, it helps to understand a few things about the product and how it developed over the years.
When it was first introduced at trade shows decades ago, it was not much more than a white cutting board treated with any slippery topical solution you could find (olive oil, vegetable oil, wax, grease, silicone), you name it, it was used.
The plastic itself was an early form of Polyethylene plastic that was originally developed in the 1950s and has come a long way since then.
Polyethylene plastic sheets are currently available in many forms throughout many different industries and applications.
There are two types of manufacturing processes performed to create Polyethylene sheets that are suitable for ice skating when either topical or infused slip agents are introduced.
- Extruded HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) The extruded manufacturing process is performed by adding a masterbatch of HDPE pellets into a large hopper that drops into a rotating screw under high heat that is pushed through a die to create a continuous sheet of plastic. Think of it as a very large, plastic "Play-Dough" machine.
- Sinter-Pressed UHMWPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) SInter-Pressed sheets are manufactured using a high amount of heat and pressure to form a solid mass of plastic which is then "planed" to create the desired consistent thickness of the panel being manufactured.
Slip agent additives or lubricants are what give the artificial ice surface more of an "ice-like" feel without being too "sticky."
- Topical - Any lubricant application applied to reduce the surface coefficient of friction after the manufacturing process, such as a biodegradable glide enhancer mixed with water or silicone spray.
- Infused - A percentage of slip agent additive is mixed-in with masterbatch resin prior to the manufacturing process to create a thoroughly infused synthetic ice sheet.
The best way to achieve optimal glide out of any synthetic ice surface is to consider purchasing an infused surface and combining it with a topical slip agent conditioner to achieve the best results.
The really is no such thing as zero maintenance with any flooring product, especially one that you can ice skate on.
It's important to keep your surface clean from dirt and debris to maximize the performance throughout the lifetime of the product.
Be sure to sweep away surface shavings regularly and dispose of them with your recyclables as part of your daily/weekly maintenance.
Pros and Cons
As with any type of product, there are pros and cons that you may want to consider before making your purchase.
At PolyGlide Ice, we offer all types of residential and commercial grade surfaces and have heard the Pros and cons of all types of surfaces.
- Pros - This is typically the least expensive product on the market.
- Cons - The most "sticky" type of surface with the least amount of glide.
- Pros - Offers optimal glide with the least amount of skate blade wear.
- Cons - Higher price point than standard HDPE sheet.
- Pros - Offers the least amount of surface wear.
- Cons - Less rigid than HDPE sheet at a much higher cost.
- Pros - Offers optimal glide with the least amount of surface wear.
- Cons - The highest-priced surface with most skate blade wear.
So what is truly the best synthetic ice for figure skating?
We have heard a lot of customer feedback over the years on all the products listed above, and the key thing to understand is that all skaters want the closest feel to natural ice possible.
It's also important to think of synthetic ice as a "simulator" to natural ice, much the same way golfers and other athletes use simulators.
The bottom line is that ice is ice, and plastic allows you to make all the same maneuvers as natural ice, which is a great asset.
Infused UHMWPE with a slip agent conditioner offers great glide, but because of the hardness of the surface, skaters complain they can't "dig-in" like they can on HDPE.
Figure skaters are also very cautious when it comes to the wear and tear on the skate blade, which you get from a workout on UHMWPE.
An infused HDPE surface with a surface conditioner will shave slightly more than UHMWPE, but it does allow the skater to grip the surface better when training.
At PolyGlide Ice, we have developed our "Hydrid" Pro-Glide synthetic ice panel that combines all the best characteristics from both infused UHMWPE & HDPE plastics to create the best synthetic ice for figure skaters!