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How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 2 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A


How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 2

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland

A thick, solid, strong and dense ice sheet on your pond or lake means you’ll have some cold-weather fun on your skates this winter. But how do you determine if that ice is safe to hold an ice skater, a hockey team or a truck to transport all their gear?

In this second part of our three-part series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’ll learn how to identify the perfect spot for your rink, how to measure your ice sheet’s thickness, how to create a glassy smooth skating surface, and how to build your winter wonderland.

Thick and Blue, Tried and True…

You’ve been watching your ice sheet develop over the fall and winter, and you think it’s ready to be fabricated into a fantastic ice rink. The first step is to identify an area on your pond or lake with the best ice. What does that look like? It should be:

  • Thick and strong. By “thick,” we mean inches of solid ice – up to 12 to 15 inches, depending on your plans for the rink. Some general guidelines are outlined below:
    • 3 inches or less: Not safe, so stay off the ice.
    • 4 inches: Suitable for ice fishing, cross-country skiing and walking (about 200 pounds).
    • 5 inches: Safe for a snowmobile or ATV (about 800 pounds).
    • 8 to 12 inches: OK for a car or group of people (about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds).
    • 12 to 15 inches: Suitable for a light pickup truck or a van.
  • Solid, blue to clear. This is high density, very strong and safe ice when thick enough. Areas that appear light gray to black, white to opaque, mottled or slushy are unsafe and should be avoided. Also stay away from areas with cracks or breaks, ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen, and abnormal surfaces you haven’t seen before, like ridges caused by currents or winds.
  • Located away from inlets and outlets. Moving water affects the integrity of the ice, so avoid areas near inlets/outlets and springs.

Before you go out on the ice, follow safety protocols: Tell someone where you’re going, dress accordingly, wear a floatation device, carry a change of clothing and an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. When inspecting the ice, remember this rhyme: “Thick and blue, tried and true; thin and crispy, way too risky.”

Checking the Ice

So how do you check your ice sheet’s thickness and quality? You have three options: an ice chisel, an ice auger and a cordless drill. You’ll use one of these tools – along with a tape measure, of course – to carve a hole in the ice and check on what’s happening below the surface.

An ice chisel is your most basic ice-checking tool. It’s a metal rod with a sharp, flat blade welded onto one end. You drive the chisel into the ice using a stabbing motion until you create a hole. *This option may not be the best if you have fish. Pounding on the ice can cause fish stress.

Augers drill a hole in the ice via a spiraling blade that’s rotated by hand or powered by an electric or gas motor. Hand augers are inexpensive, lightweight and quiet to operate. Electric augers are also quiet, but they require less manual labor to operate. Gas augers blast through the ice fastest, but they’re heavy, noisy and more costly than hand or electric models.

A 7.2-volt cordless drill with a long, five-eighths-inch wood auger bit will drive through 8 inches of ice in less than 30 seconds. It’s the most efficient way to get the job done.

Once you have made a hole in the ice, measure its thickness with a tape measure. Put the tape measure into the hole and hook the bottom edge of the ice before taking a reading. While you’re there, inspect the quality of the ice. It should be dense, blue and thick – at least 4 inches.

Create a Glassy Smooth Surface

Now that you have identified the perfect spot for your rink, it’s time to prep the surface. First, check the weather to make sure below-freezing temperatures are forecasted for the next five nights. Then, gather some gear, including a flat-head shovel, a pickaxe or hatchet, and a bucket or garden hose, head out to the rink site and get to work:

  1. Stake out your skating area. A 50-foot by 100-foot rink is plenty of space to start with, particularly on a smaller pond. The area can be expanded as needed.
  2. Shovel the entire surface Next, using your flat nose shovel, push the snow from side to side in the middle of the ice, and then from the middle out to the ends.
  3. Strategically pile up the snow. Create seating areas, hockey goals and some backstops at either end of the rink.
  4. Access some water. You’ll need water to pour onto the surface of your rink, so break through the ice with your hatchet or pick axe to create an opening large enough for a bucket or garden hose. Build a ring of snow around the hole for future reference.
  5. Ice the surface Fill your bucket with pond water and pour it onto the exposed ice sheet. If you’re using a hose, siphon the water and distribute it evenly on the surface. Repeat until you’ve evenly covered the area with water.
  6. Freeze and repeat.. Let the pond ice freeze overnight. Return to the pond the next day and repeat the process for five nights.

Before long, you’ll have a smooth, solid ice rink that’ll provide hours of fun for you and your friends.

Remember: Safety First

Despite all your careful and diligent rink-building efforts, it’s important to remember that there’s no absolute guarantee that the ice is safe. Accidents can happen. Be proactive by installing a life ring nearby, and providing a first aid kit, blanket and other emergency essentials just in case someone does fall through the ice.

If you missed it, check out Part 1 – Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 3 – Maintaining Your Ice Rink.

Create A Smooth Skating Surface

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