Skating outdoors in the winter is a truly Canadian tradition. Wintery nights are made much more tolerable with the option to just pick up your skates, gloves, a jacket, and helmet and head out to the nearest sheet of ice to visit with friends and neighbours. Clear skies flooded with stars add to the ambiance as people glide by atop of gleaming blades, and quite often there is a fire pit or two nearby where you can warm up for a few minutes before the next twirl around the ice.
A backyard rink is a great way to keep kids occupied throughout the winter months and encourage them to brush up on their skating and stickhandling skills to keep advancing through their sport. Backyard rinks are great because you always know where your kids are and there is far less chance of them losing their gloves every time they leave the house. A backyard rink can take some care and attention to set up properly, but if you do it right you should not cause any damage to your grass and yard for the spring.
How to create the perfect outdoor rink
The best way to take care of your lawn while also building an outdoor rink is to wait until temperatures are consistently below -10 degrees for at least a few days. By this point, your grass will be dormant and won’t die when exposed to long-term darkness and heavy weight. It requires about three days of cold temperatures for a good freeze. Watch for a couple cold nights without any snow in the forecast. Snow will cause the freezing ice to form a crust that makes it more difficult for surfacing.
It is beneficial to have a large, flat area on which to start your rink. Unfortunately, any sort of grade increases the difficulty level exponentially.
You will want to build some sort of barrier to mark the edges of your rink. Some people use wood fencing, some use concrete blocks, and others go with stacking up a thick rope. The point is to stop water from going where you don’t want it to go.
Once you have your barrier built, building up your ice is a gradual process, and may take some trial and error to start. You can choose to put down a tarp, a plastic liner, rubber mats, or some kind of covering to form the rink’s foundation, or you can just start flooding on top of the snow and underlying grass. The important thing is to not be impatient. Sprinkle down a thin layer using your hose, then wait for it to freeze. Then sprinkle down another layer. Then another, and another. Once you have at least a couple inches of ice formed you can run your hose continuously for several hours to let everything fill in and get the smooth surface that is ideal for skating.
Maintaining your rink
Outdoor rink maintenance requires staying on top of day-to-day repairs and cleaning:
- Shovel off the top layer after each snowfall.
- Watch for bubbles caused by dripping water and debris trapped in the ice. Scrape them off using a shovel or a spade.
- Fill in cracks and holes with snow before flooding.
- Always flood carefully, layer by layer if necessary.
Keeping your grass in good shape
When the weather starts to warm up, you may need to start pumping off water as it appears. As soon as it is warm enough to do so (i.e. the runoff will not just freeze elsewhere in your yard), remove your rink barriers. This allows the meltwater to drain off properly.
The quicker you can have your rink melt, the better. Winterkill happens when grass is compressed for too long. Do not use salt to speed up the process, as this will just kill your lawn and poison the groundwater.
Break up the ice as you can in order to speed up melting, and remove the pieces from the area. It’s ok to put them elsewhere in your garden! Once the ice is gone and the ground has dried up somewhat, keep raking and fluffing up the grass as it starts to appear to help avoid snow mould.
Outdoor rinks in Calgary
The City of Calgary runs nine iconic outdoor rinks throughout the winter months. Bowness Park has its beloved lagoon, a new ice trail, fire pits, a sheet of ice for crokicurl, and even ice bikes for rent. Helmets and skates are also available for rent. The Olympic Plaza features music and holiday lights, and rentals are available. North Glenmore features an ice trail and crokicurl, and a rink for pick-up shinny hockey. And, right downtown is a sheet of ice located at Barb Scott Park, where urban denizens can just walk a couple blocks for a spin.
Seventy more outdoor rinks are taken care of through Calgary’s Adopt-a-Rink program, where citizens help flood and maintain existing community pleasure skating rinks throughout the city. If you are thinking of starting a rink in your community, call 311 to learn more. The deadline for this winter has passed already, but there is still plenty of time to submit an application after April 1, 2023 and before Oct. 1, 2023.
Professional snow removal in Calgary from Mirage
If you want to save your personal labour for keeping your outdoor rink in good shape, count on our snow removal professionals at Mirage Landscaping to take care of your walks, driveways, and pathways. Our snow removal crews work around the clock to keep your home or business clear and are fully compliant with all Calgary bylaws.
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You’ll be surprised to learn just how affordable our snow removal services are. Get started today by contacting us for a fast, free custom price quote.