Footprints in the slush

When we last left you, we were coming down off the high that was January 1st 2010, that being the day that saw the beginning of a new hockey career and the showcase of the world’s greatest sport at Fenway Park.  Friday afternoon, as the crowds ambled towards the T and the last bits of ice slid off RJ’s size 8 Bauers and onto the kitchen rug-turned-locker room, it began to snow.  And snow.  And snow.  Preparing ourselves for the event, we buckled down in our warmest flannels, our slankets, and the best DVR’d toddler cartoons DirecTV could record.  And we wholly ignored our backyard slab.

48 hours later, we emerged from the colonial igloo, grabbed various ice-cleaning accoutrements, and set out towards the 603.  We had what I thought was solid ice on Friday, and I assumed the light and fluffy 10″ of snow we’d received would be sitting nicely on top of it.  I figured a half hour to clean off the snow and we’d be able to resurface with the homeboni down to a skateable surface.  I started with the snow thrower in the shallow end, making several passes while RJ bounced around the deep end with his plastic shovel.  As I turned the thrower around for my third pass, I saw his tiny little boots sticking straight up from beyond the high boards and ran over to pluck him from the snow.  I heard his little belly laugh before I even reached him, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  But as I placed him upright on the rink’s surface, I turned around to reveal a dozen or so size 12 footprints, not in the fluffy white snow, but in dark gray SLUSH.  It had never even occurred to me that there would be anything but solid ice under the snow, so this foreign (and unwanted…and hated…and HEAVY) visitor sent me reeling.  Thinking the rink had experienced melting, I grabbed RJ and hopped over the boards back into the yard.

Crap.   slush backyard ice rink footprints

After consulting with my rink experts (aka the Yahoo Backyard Rink group), we decided the best course of action would be to remove the snow atop the slush, allowing it to be exposed to the frigid temps that we’re expecting later this week.  So my dad and I went back out, shovels in tow, and proceeded to clear off the rink, first moving snow, then pushing slush.  The endgame thankfully justifying the effort, we left the rink 90 minutes later with the original ice surface exposed to the air, complete with skate marks from Friday’s jaunt.

After reading some older posts from the Yahoo gang, I have deduced that my slush was not a result of melting ice, but rather was a result of the heavy snow pushing down my slab of ice and displacing some of the water beneath it.  Since I missed the extreme cold in early December and have been only dealing with teens and 20’s since, my rink had not yet frozen to the ground.  In my deep end, I had what I now realize was approximately 6″ of ice floating on top of 6″ of water.  When the snow accumulated, the weight of the snow allowed the water to seep up from beneath the slab, mixing with the bottom few inches of snow to create the Hell Soup that we shoveled yesterday.  Had I even thought of this possibility, it’s likely I would have emerged from my weekend hot chocolate coma to shovel the rink a few times, subsequently eliminating the weight before the water had a chance to be displaced.

What did I learn from this slushy surprise?

First, I learned that the ice depth ruler that rbrand1124 posted to the Backyard Rink group would have told me on Friday that I wasn’t skating on a solid block, but a floating slab.  As it was, I had no idea.   I *will* be making four of these (one for each corner) next season.

I also learned that even the lightest snow is capable of pushing a slab of ice down far enough to displace water, a concept that I probably would have challenged had I not seen it myself.  This means more mid-storm shoveling, at least until we’re frozen to the ground.

And lastly, I learned that maintaining a rink gets infinitely easier when you have an understanding owner (the wife), eager players (RJ), and willing assistants (my dad).  The fact that we should be skating again this weekend is a testament to each of them and their willingness to let me exist in the mad, mad world that is rinkbuilding.

4 thoughts on “Footprints in the slush

  1. Rob

    Funny that I’m doing searches for backyard rinks & slush when I come across your post which references the ruler I made (I’m rbrand1124). We just had a foot of snow over the weekend & I experienced the same thing you did with the snow turning to slush. Normally I would’ve been out there every few hours clearing off the snow, but with the warmup of a few weeks back my ice thickness wasn’t enough for me to get on the ice (safely) with the snowblower. My deep end has 20+ inches of water, so it was inevitable that the foot of snow would force up the water.

    I did learn something though – in a big snowstorm, just leave it alone. A day later I got out there, shoveled off the snow that didn’t turn to slush & had a bumpy, but very workable, slab of ice. Two hot water passes with the homeboni & the ice was *almost* as good as new. As an added benefit, that foot of snow ended up melting into an additional 3″ of ice depth for me in the deep end.

    Anyway, good to hear my little invention will serve you next year… but oh, January 1st 2010 was far from a high for me. I’m a lifelong Flyers fan 😉

    Enjoy the cold!

  2. Joe Post author

    That is funny…good to see the new domain is already directing folks from the search engines!

    I think I might have left my slushy rink alone had I not created two dozen big footprints in the slush on a diagonal line from one corner to the other. If I had let it freeze like that, my rink would have been altogether useless until I filled in the prints. I also begrudgingly don’t have the luxury of a hot-water homeboni. So I guess when it comes to slush, it’s a delicate balancing act between recognizing your rink conditions, having a plan that looks at upcoming weather, and knowing which tools you have and which ones you don’t. As with all things rink, there is no one-size-fits-all solution!

    And no worries about the Winter Classic. A diehard B’s fan and season ticket holder, I’m hoping they lose every game for the rest of the season and end up with two top 10 picks next year (since they also have Toronto’s). They have a good core, they need some stud talent to put the puck in the net. Give me a Crosby- or Malkin-like young kid, and we’ll see you in two years!

  3. Val

    this is so helpful, thank you! My boys skated this afternoon and it started snowing. When I went out to shovel, it was slush…now I know why, and I will just let it be until the snow is done falling sometime tomorrow. Hoping we can do a quick water pass and be back on it by tomorrow evening. definitely Monday at latest.

    Thank heavens so many other people have done this, too 🙂 A backyard rink is the BEST.

  4. Michael

    like others, I found this by searching “backyard rink” “slush” on google. I built a backyard rink for the first time this year, and have been making pretty much every first timer mistake. Case in point, today we had our first significant snowfall of the year (I am in Pittsburgh, and we are not having the cold winter I had anticipated). Anyway, we were in the 50s with rain on Sunday, so most of the ice that I was skating on last Friday had melted. However, two days and nights in the teens had me hoping for skating tonight. It snowed this morning, and I didn’t have enough ice yet (figured this out while shoveling in the middle of my 32×32 rink and hearing significant cracking) to shovel the whole thing. So instead of leaving it alone, I decided to scrape as much off as I could reach from the outside with a push broom. Now I have a square of slush in the middle, and a lot of bump ice around it. Thoughts? Flood it tonight?

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