When is your backyard ice rink ready to skate?
So, you've constructed your boards, put in a liner and filled your rink. It's been minus 10 out for 3 solid days (lucky you!) Here are some things to consider before you venture out onto the ice.
First and foremost make sure it is frozen at least 3 inches deep. It's tempting to venture out onto the ice when it will just barely support you, but you're better off waiting another day or two. The holes that you make, and the ice that you break while going out early will be a pain to make "good ice" later.
It snowed, now what? Well, if your ice isn't strong enough to support you, leave it! That's right, don't shovel the snow from the side of your rink, or even try to remove it. You're ultimately looking for a uniform surface on your ice. If you can only get to some of the ice to shovel, or if you break through, you'll end up having uneven areas that will be more difficult to make "good ice" later. If, on the other hand, your ice is strong enough to support you, go ahead and shovel it off. I personally wait until it the rink can support me and my snowblower (oh yeah, you now have two driveways to shovel.) When shoveling, be careful next to the boards. Especially early in the season you don't want to rip your liner. You never know when that 3 day thaw is going to come and steal your precious water. If your liner stays in place you won't lose too much, but if there's a rip, you're sunk.
The surface is not good for skating. If there was a lot of wind, or it snowed while freezing, etc, you can end up with ice that wouldn't be too easy to skate on, especially for little ones. If you have this problem turn right to the "Maintaining Ice Quality" page.
Everything looks good, get 'em out there skating! If your kids are little like mine were when I started you need to keep a few things in mind. They'll only want to ice skate for a short time. They'll stay out even shorter if it's really cold. To maximize things, at least one parent should plan on "attending to needs" the first couple of times. Also, I recommend getting the kids skates on in the house and carrying them to the ice. Their feet will stay warmer longer. Also, make sure you brought the skates in from the garage to warm them up plenty ahead of time. More little kid skating tips can be found here.
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