Why Are Synthetic Ice Skating Rinks Not More Common?Angelique Laaks
It’s incredible that there are still many people who have not heard of synthetic ice skating rinks and would certainly raise an inquiring eyebrow at the thought.
Ice is ice, right?
Well, before we answer that, consider this.
Japan boasts one of the most amazing indoor beaches where “The water is always blue and salt-free, waves are perfectly timed, sharks are elsewhere, and it’s never too hot, or cold, to take a dip.”
Is it a beach? No, but it looks like a beach, it feels like a beach, and it’s always accessible to the thousands of visitors, no matter what the weather is doing. (Minus the sunburn!)
In much the same way, synthetic ice skating rinks are not real ice, yet they offer skaters the option to enjoy the freedom and fun associated with a large, smooth space on which they can still glide and spin.
As with any product which is approximating the real thing, it’s not exactly the same, and there are certainly pros and cons to consider.
What Is Synthetic Ice Used In Ice Skating?
Understanding exactly what synthetic ice skating rinks are made of will go a long way towards answering many questions surrounding their use.
Essentially, a synthetic rink is made from hardwearing interlocking panels.
“A typical synthetic ice rink will consist of many panels (usually in typical building material sheet sizes) of thin surface material assembled on top of a sturdy, level and smooth sub-floor (anything from concrete to wood or even dirt or grass) to create a large skating area. The connection systems vary. A true commercial joint connection system can be installed virtually on any type of surface whereas the typical “dovetail” joint system requires a near-perfect substrate to operate safely.
The most common material used is HDPE (high-density polyethylene), but recently UHMW-PE (ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene) is being used by some manufacturers. This new formula has the lowest coefficient levels of friction, at only 10% to 15% greater than real ice.” (Source)
What does this mean for the ice skating community?
That mostly depends on how you plan on using this irresistible space.
Die-hard hockey players or figure skaters may well use synthetic ice to train on in the absence of a true ice rink, but they generally admit to it feeling “different.”
Why is that?
“When skating on natural ice, the skate blade increases the temperature of the microscopic top layers of the ice, melting it to produce a small amount of water that reduces drag and causes the blade to glide on top of the ice.” (Source)
It is reasonable to assume then, that the reduced friction and increased glide of real ice which professionals are used to would be missed on an artificial ice skating rink.
However, Trevor Collins of Ice Magic makes a valid point.
“It’s a great practice rink. We often have pro skaters on our panels who say they can pretty much do what they can on real ice and with a realistic feel. You have to work harder but it’s more rewarding. It ticks the environmental box too and enables anybody to have their very own skating rink in their back garden!”
Are Synthetic Ice Skating Rinks Worth The Money?
This is a fair question.
As far as leisure activities go – both indoor and outdoor – ice skating remains a safe, fun, family-friendly sport. An ice rink caters for all ages and skating levels with the more seasoned and confident among us whizzing around the inside, and the cautiously optimistic staying a little closer to the outside rails.
For event companies who are looking for an inclusive draw-card to entertain a crowd, synthetic ice skating rinks are a no-brainer. For corporate events, fundraisers, charity events or a special town celebratory weekend, a synthetic ice rink is the answer.
Consider the benefits:
- A synthetic ice skating rink can be set up anywhere, provided there is a flat surface and enough space for the delivery vehicles.
- Set up can be indoors or outdoors, and to a size that suits your needs.
- It doesn’t really matter what the weather is doing – a mid-summer ice skating event is just as feasible as a freezing winter wonderland.
- Synthetic ice rinks are fully mobile. If your company chooses to buy an ice rink then this asset follows you wherever you need to go.
- Once set up, a synthetic rink needs no additional power to maintain a skating surface.
Considering all the above, we do have to ask the question, why aren’t synthetic ice rinks more common? We hope that we’ve given you something to think about, and we welcome any questions that you may have.