1. Pick a flat spot to build your rink and stake off the perimeter.
2. Make snow banks around the perimeter to keep water and hockey pucks in. Some people build wooden rink boards, but snow banks work perfectly well.
3. Pack down the snow within the perimeter by pushing a heavy grass roller, pulling kids on a sled, or walking on it with heavy boots. Better yet, enlist the entire family in helping to make your rink base as level and compact as possible.
4. Once you've got a level base, wait for a very cold night to begin watering. If you use an outdoor tap and garden hose, be warned that they might freeze. If possible, run a garden hose through an open window to an indoor utility sink and faucet. Don't soak the snow on the first watering pass, since even cold water can melt it. Instead, give it a light spray just enough to make it crusty. Spray the snow banks around your rink too.
5. Once your rink base is crusty, start the long flooding process, watering only at night since even a sunny winter day can be too warm to make good ice. As you soak your rink's base, keep the hose moving to avoid making holes in the surface. Your rink won't look like much at first... don't be concerned! Bring your hose inside after each watering session so that any remaining water within it doesn't freeze.
6. Flood your rink for two or three more nights, making sure that each pass has frozen before starting another. This usually means once a night, twice on very cold ones. Before long, the water will start to fill the low spots and the surface will start to build up, even out, and look like a rink. Don't stop flooding or start skating too soon. The thicker the ice, the better!
7. Once you begin using the rink, it's all about maintenance. Shovel your rink with a heavy steel scraper after skating and when it snows. Continue to flood the surface every couple of days... daily if usage is heavy.
Once your rink is ready for use, why not host an opening party? Invite friends and neighbours over for some physical activity and fun, followed of course, by cups of hot cocoa! Remember: make ice skating safe and fun for all. No child should be allowed to skate without a helmet, and ideally, adults should wear them too.
Have fun... and please send me photos of your rink!
Ambassador, Active Living
PS: Build-a-rink kits can also be purchased in many stores but if you've got snow, freezing temperatures and access to a hose and water supply for flooding, these kits aren't necessary. Proper-fitting helmets however, are essential and in most cases the law. Don't let your children step onto the ice without them.