Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fighting Climate Change on Ice: Fake Rinks Take off ; Warm Weather Has Foiled Canada's Tradition of Backyard Rinks - or Has It? Artificially Made Ice Is in Vogue

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fighting Climate Change on Ice: Fake Rinks Take off ; Warm Weather Has Foiled Canada's Tradition of Backyard Rinks - or Has It? Artificially Made Ice Is in Vogue

Article excerpt

It used to be that sometime in November Canadians could flatten out the snow behind the house, let the water hose run for a few hours, and get a nice flat sheet of ice.

But warm weather is ruining that Canadian tradition: the backyard skating rink. It is also helping a company that sells artificial rinks that cost about the same as a swimming pool.

The outdoor rinks - which can be either portable or permanent - use plastic pipes and a refrigeration unit to make an ice rink, even when temperatures are well above freezing.

The smallest rink, which measures 20 feet by 40 feet, starts at US $17,000, while a full-blown standard NHL rink would cost just under $1 million. Custom Ice, which designs and builds the rinks for private clients, has seen its sales rise 25 percent this year.

"This year we started skating on Oct. 23 and we'll go to Easter," says Marko Burkovec, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga.

"I lay out the tubes in the fall and roll them up in the spring. My neighbors laughed when I put in it, but they don't laugh anymore."

60 percent of sales to America

Sixty percent of the company's sales are made in the US, but the largest concentration of rinks - including two of the $1 million variety, built this year - is in suburban Toronto, where temperatures this year have been well above average.

"From October to mid-January, the average temperature in Toronto is usually 0.7 degrees Celsius [33.3 degrees F.]. So far this winter the average is 4.7 C [40.5 F.]," says Claire Martin, a meteorologist who works with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto and also lectures to United Nations forums on weather. She says it's been the same story across central Canada.

"In Ottawa, the Rideau Canal which is the world's longest skating rink, has yet to freeze over," says Ms. Martin. Indeed, the canal isn't expected to open until the end of this week.

Shooting pucks from October until Easter

That means people in eastern Canada relying on the cold to freeze the rink have been out of luck. In Uxbridge, Ontario, about an hour's drive north of Toronto, Brent Barton only started skating on his backyard rink after mid-January. …

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