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The Art of Ice

Ever wonder what is involved with getting our lakes ready for ice skating? For starters, it requires the right ingredients, Mother Nature’s cooperation, skilled staff, and lots of patience.

Ice Thickness

image-ice-thicknessThere must be a minimum of 8 inches of ice on Lake Ellyn and/or Lake Foxcroft before anyone is allowed on the ice, including Park District staff and equipment. This is the policy of the Glen Ellyn Park District’s risk management agency and we are required to stay compliant. It can take several weeks of consistent subfreezing temps for the lakes to reach the 8-inch thickness. Snow acts as an insulator, which can severely slow down the freezing process even in subzero conditions.

When conditions are nearing optimal and the ice is getting close, park staff will begin taking ice readings daily. Staff will take 6 separate readings and if any readings are less than 8 inches thick then the ice will have to remain closed.

Grooming the Rinks

image-homboniSnow is by far the biggest obstacle to overcome when dealing with Lake Ellyn and Lake Foxcroft. Once the snow removal process starts it must be finished – and the sooner it’s removed the better.  Any snow left on the ice can either freeze solid or the weight of it can compromise the ice (leaving large cracks and sometimes open water).  The snow removal processes on Lake Ellyn takes 6-8 hours. Six inches of snow on Lake Ellyn weighs between 8 – 10 million pounds.

When all the snow has been removed that’s when staff can begin the final steps.  A large sweeper is then brought out to clear any remaining snow and/or ice shavings and then final step is to layer the ice using the Park District’s version of a Zamboni, affectionately called the “Homboni”.  This machine was created by staff and it does an excellent job smoothing out the surface.

Weather

The weather isn’t always so cooperative.  The lakes are subject to bouts of warm weather and even the occasional rainstorm. These factors can leave the ice unsafe for skating and then the process must be started all over again.

The ice making process is a labor of love. It is cold, back-breaking work, but Park District staff is happy to do it and they take great take pride in the quality ice they provide.  You’d be surprised at how excited staff gets when the rinks are ready and open for skating!