Severe drops in temperature can mean only one thing for Calgarians – winter is here and it’s here to stay.

While others may shudder at the thought of the city’s arctic-like weather, there are enthusiastic groups of individuals throughout the city who eagerly look forward to starting outdoor winter activities. 

One activity that continues to be popular is skating outdoors. Every winter season many community associations and public parks set up skating surfaces for their residents to enjoy. 

Watch Matthew DeMille’s report

While creating an outdoor rink may seem simple and straightforward, there’s a lot of work behind the scenes for ice makers and their crews. There are no set guidelines to making these surfaces, which allows every ice maker to add their own flare and method to their ice. 

Innovation on the ice

Ron Darling, the head ice maker for the Hamptons Calgary Homeowners Association, has been making ice at their community centre since 2014. 

According to Darling, the first step in his ice making process is to build up a dense layer of snow that the water can sit on. 

“We need snow before we put the water down. If it’s translucent then the sun just burns right through,” said Darling. “It’ll be an opaque start and that’s what you want. Then you build layer upon layer on top.” 

Darling, a former fire captain with the Calgary Fire Department, has made his one-of-a-kind process by using a fire service exposure nozzle method he learned from his time with the department. 

Outdoor rinks come in all shapes and sizes. The ‘dog bone’ is just one of two rinks in operation at the Hamptons community centre. PHOTO: Matthew DeMille

“What we do here is we have a water curtain fan that the fire service would protect [exposed areas] between buildings during a fire,” said Darling.

The nozzle is jimmy rigged to a plastic board fitted with hockey skate blades, which makes dispersing the water more efficient. 

While Darling’s technique is innovative, most other community associations use a more conventional method to form their rinks.

More than one way to have fun

At the Sandstone MacEwan Community Association, a group of volunteers, led by the association’s vice president Trevor Bacon, flood their rink by using a traditional hose.

According to Bacon, the biggest challenge they have is not making the ice, but finding volunteers to help maintain the surface. 

“We do have a great base that comes out, but to have people commit and come out to help us is the biggest step,” said Bacon. 

“It’s good for people to understand that [many] community rinks are run by volunteers, so if you have [a rink] in your community or you use one, it would be good to sign up and check it out and see what it’s about,” said Bacon. 

“You get to play with hoses in the wintertime, which is fun, and you contribute to the community so that people can get out and skate.”

The work continues after the ice has been made for Darling and Bacon. Ice rinks will have to be maintained, re-flooded, and patched up throughout the entire winter season.  

Both rinks are currently operational and are expected to be in skating condition until late February or early March.

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Matt DeMille is an aspiring sports journalist entering his fourth year in Mount Royal University’s communication program. He is also the sports editor at The Reflector.