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!”