A Backyard Ice Skating Rink!

Recently we went to our friends’ house to try out their new homemade ice rink.

So, first of all? Completely jealous. Seriously, it’s awesome. Unfortunately we have a small, sloping little yard, so no matter how much I pine (and whine), it’s just not meant to be for us.

Smiling, yes, but crying a little bit inside.

But maybe you could try it. You need some very level ground. In fact, if you believe that you already have level ground, you’re likely to learn that it’s not nearly as level as you thought it was. My friends built a wood frame and lined it with a light-colored tarp (you can see both in the photo above). Then they added water. Presto! Okay, not exactly presto, because there appears to be a bit of finesse involved. Like the corner that turned out to be higher than it appeared and the wind blowing the tarp. Not to mention the constant onslaught of new variations on the “wintry mix” with which a rinkmaster must contend.

But the maintenance and improvements of the rink appear to become a rather compulsive hobby. First there was a PVC-pipe water-distribution system. Then a couple of specially-designed PVC new-skater trainers:

The trainer is a revelation, or at least it was to me. If you’ve ever put a brand-new skater behind a bucket or a chair, you know that: a) they tip over sometimes, and b) they encourage pretty bad form, with the skater often hunched over and dragging their feet along behind them. This PVC-pipe contraption is stable and allows those feet to skate under the body as the Skating Gods intended. The picture above is my daughter using a younger child’s trainer, but the handy dad made trainers sized perfectly for his two kids. One of my girlfriends is waiting for the adult-sized version. He explains:

I made the base 30″ x 30″ and adjusted the height for each kid. The angled pieces are equal, so it makes it easy once you have one side figured out for the height.
Here is the list of materials:

(2) 10′ PVC pipes 1 1/4″Diameter
(6) 90 Deg Fittings
(2) 45 Deg Fittings
(4) “T” Fittings

I didn’t bother gluing for easy adjustment, plus the fittings are so tight they don’t come apart easily.

We had tons of fun skating in the backyard. What’s great is that you can go outside just for an hour (or send the kids out) without having to travel at all. A little exercise in the fresh air is sorely needed at this point in winter. And I have to admit that when we skate at ponds, I frequently have a paranoid fear that there will be a break in the ice and at any moment we’ll have to launch into a chain gang, George Bailey style, to fish somebody out.  So it’s nice to eliminate that anxiety and still enjoy the great outdoors.

Here are some of the links that our friends thought were the most helpful:

The rink was terrific, but we already have improvements in mind for next year. We’re thinking a canopy to protect the rink from the elements, twinkling white lights in the trees, and space for a bonfire at night. Guys, could you get working on it, please?

Does anyone make your own ice rink? Any words of advice or encouragement?


  1. Well, I was really helped out b/c J didn’t want to be alone for her first class. So I came along and followed the preschool skating teacher’s instructions without having to pay for a class!

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