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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Well, actually, this year it has not been the worst of times. Sure, we’ve had our travails, but nothing like last year.
This year’s version of the backyard ice rink has been much more successful thanks to wisdom gained from past experience (read: failures) and thanks in larger part to the weather actually cooperating this winter!
(Ice rinks will always fail when the temperature is rarely below freezing.)
In that we’ve had a much more normal winter, temperature-wise, we’ve been able to actually use our rink, and I think learn a bit more for next year, too. For example, we’ve been able to experiment with resurfacing the ice, keeping it cleaned off, and even learned that snow blowers are NOT an ice rink’s friend.
If you’ll recall, last year we (meaning, I) forgot to re-measure the rink dimensions after we extended it… leaving us very short with the pre-measured plastic! Oh boy! Then there was the 14-inch plus difference from one end of the rink to the other, leaving us with no water in one end of the rink.
Wow. We had plenty of issues last year.
There were some things we learned and improved this year, though.
What Worked Well
We had plenty of lumber, a three-year supply of good quality plastic liner, and we moved the rink to a flatter section of our back yard. (Unfortunately that flatter section is a little smaller, so the rink measures roughly 20′ x 34′ this year. Last year it was more like 30′ x 42′, I believe.)
We were able to fill the flatter, smaller rink in less than a day (much shorter than last time) and we got it filled just before a string of sub-freezing days. And so, as you can see, we’ve been able to use our back yard ice rink this year! Fantastic!
What Has NOT Worked…
Like last year, we’ve had our share of failures—though thankfully smaller. Failures are of course the best way to learn, so we’re reminding ourselves of the proverbial silver lining. In this case, I do believe it’s working. (Already looking forward to version 3.0 next winter!)
One thing we’ve learned is that, thought the flatter ground was great, it also happens to be under several trees. This is not a good idea. Throughout the winter so far, leaves and branches have regularly fallen down into the rink. The leaves are certainly unattractive; they are also trouble when they freeze into the ice near the surface. That leaves rough spots at least, and even cracked spots or bumps. Not good.
Also, when the rink was initally freezing, we got nearly two feet of snow dumped on us, all at once. This was good, except that the snow blower had to throw the snow somewhere …
You don’t want to throw it on your rink!!!
We had bumpy ice there for a month! Couldn’t get the ice smoothed out on the side where the snowblower had blown its snow. Definitely be careful with your snow blowing!
Lastly, when first setting up the rink, we have been using the plastic as a sort of “binding” for all the boards. This works fine once the water is in, but then you just have a strange, shallow pool in your backyard until the temperature gets below freezing. (And this allows for more leaves and sticks to collect on the bottom of your strange, shallow pool.) For some reason, I never considered not putting the plastic liner down until it was time to fill the rink! (Which can be done even after the temperature drops below freezing. (Might even be better that way?)
We have been able to use the hose to add layers of water, smoothing out the used and/or bumpy ice surface. That part is good… the bad part is when the hose gets left outside in sub-zero temperatures! Oops! We recovered the hose at the next thaw, but it was lost for a few weeks there.
Live (Do) and Learn
That’s a funny phrase, “Live and learn” … it’s not actually true unless your “living” includes doing. So, we’ve been “doing” for a couple years now, and we have a fun winter of ice-capades to show for it, and several noggins full of backyard-ice-rink knowledge to put to good use next winter. We should have a fantastic rink in year three! Look out!
A quick check of the 10-day forecast shows plenty of lows in the 20s, so there should be some more ice rink fun in our near future. Nice!
If you like ice sports … we Campbells highly recommend you try this project in your own back yard!