Synthetic Ice Rinks vs Natural Ice Rinks – Which is Better for Skating?
A quality synthetic ice rinks will feel and perform similarly to conventional ice. This can significantly benefit skaters by reducing the transition time to training on natural ice.
Natural ice rinks require a below-freezing climate and refrigeration systems to maintain performance. This can be costly for some outdoor rinks and indoor ones.
Easy to Maintain
Unlike traditional ice rinks, which require vast amounts of water and expensive compressors to freeze and maintain the surface, synthetic ice rinks are easy to keep clean. They also don’t require a refrigeration system, so skaters can spend more time skating and less time cleaning and servicing the rink.
Keeping a synthetic ice rink in top condition is as simple as sweeping and mopping the surface before and after each use and ensuring that all skaters use appropriate safety equipment (i.e. padded helmets). The ice tiles should be covered when not used to prevent debris from being kicked into the air during skating sessions and protect them from sun damage.
The most important thing to consider when choosing a synthetic ice product is the quality of the surface material and how it’s connected. Some brands use a puzzle or dovetail interlocking system that can shift over time, leaving a ridged skating surface or causing gaps between the panels. A tight tongue-and-groove connection ensures the ice sheets don’t lift and shift during average skating, creating a smooth and seamless surface.
The sintering process also allows for embedding lubricant pellets into the polymer for superior glide. As the blades cut into the plastic, they release these lubricants for a fantastic glide. This is a significant difference from other synthetic ice products that require a topical lubricant to be applied regularly, making the experience incredible.
As synthetic ice becomes increasingly popular, more and more municipalities, sports clubs, and even individuals are installing private skating rinks in their garages and backyards. However, you must choose a premium quality product to ensure your rink’s best performance and long lifespan.
The most common type of synthetic ice is a series of interlocking plastic polymer panels that create a seamless skating surface. Choosing a product with a tight tongue-and-groove connection system that prevents the panels from shifting or lifting after installation is essential. This prevents accidents on the ice and helps keep your rink looking new for years.
Cheaper synthetic ice is made from low-grade materials that are not conducive to a smooth glide and tend to cause abrasions and shavings that accumulate on skate blades, leaving behind a dirty rink and a sky-high cleaning bill. This abrasion also leads to sharpening skate blades more frequently than necessary, which can be expensive and frustrating for the skater.
Synthetic rinks are a great alternative for those who love to skate but cannot get enough time on natural ice. With minimal maintenance requirements, these synthetic ice surfaces are designed to last. They also don’t require refrigeration systems like their natural counterparts, making them more eco-friendly.
The surface of premium synthetic ice is engineered to minimize friction and abrasion, allowing for better skating quality and saving on costly blade re-sharpening costs. This is especially important for athletes who rely on their skates to perform.
Aside from minimizing friction, the surface of premium synthetic ice is optimized to mimic that of natural ice to enhance the overall skating experience. This makes it easier for hobbyists to enjoy skating and allows athletes to practice their moves, drills, and skills in a realistic environment.
Synthetic ice is often used in rinks at hockey schools and universities, recreational centers, hotels, and private patios or rooftops. Because they don’t require refrigeration systems, these rinks can be used all year round. Moreover, rain or snow does not damage the rink or interfere with its functionality. Additionally, since a synthetic rink comprises interlocking panels, you can quickly move them to other locations if needed.
Many skaters need access to ice or are limited in their ice time due to travel costs, and having a synthetic rink at home is an affordable way to save on those expenses. A premium quality synthetic ice surface is designed to minimize friction for a smoother glide that doesn’t wear on your equipment.
Low-quality synthetic ice can cause abrasion and shavings that require frequent resurfacing and cleaning, and the resulting cost significantly burdens your budget. It could be smoother, which can reduce the pleasure of skating and make maneuvering difficult.
The quality of raw materials plays a significant role in the performance of synthetic ice. Cheaper synthetic ice sheets are more likely to change color and deteriorate with exposure to sun and rain.
The best artificial ice rinks are made with high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a solid material suitable for regular metal-bladed ice skates. HDPE is tough and durable while still allowing for good glide characteristics. In addition, HDPE does not absorb water and is less prone to cracking, which means that a premium-quality synthetic ice rink can be used year-round, regardless of weather conditions. This makes the investment in a synthetic rink even more worthwhile for ice lovers who need easy access to natural ice.
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