It's easy to think of things to do with the kids when the weather is warm and outdoor activities abound, but the winter months can present more of a challenge. This might be a good year to discover the pleasures of building your own ice rink.
With a few basic materials and a little know-how, you can turn the backyard into a place the whole family will enjoy. Best of all, with a rink in the backyard, you won't have to travel far to skate.
Chicagoans Paul Carrera and Dennis Wise have been building backyard ice rinks for more than 15 years.
Carrera, a Chicago native, grew up helping his father build a rink every winter. Now he and his wife, Liz, are continuing that tradition with their own family.
"We had a big yard growing up. I have a postage stamp yard now," Carrera says laughing, "but the kids love it; we all love it."
He offers this simple method for building a rink.
First, wait until the weather has been below freezing for several days. Single digit temperatures are ideal.
Carrera sometimes adds a playful element to his rink by freezing money between the layers. The kids see the coins and bills as they skate. When spring comes and the ice melts, it's finders keepers.
Wise, a Columbia professor, tucks the rink next to his coach house. Like Carrera, he keeps things simple.
"I now do a totally low-tech rink. There is no plastic liner and no perimeter form. I just use snow and water and make many, many layers of very thin ice," he says.
Wise likes the ice to reach a thickness of 5 to 6 inches. He collects cast-off Christmas trees and anchors them in snow that has been shoveled into banks around the rim. Trimmed with colored lights, the rink has a fairytale quality.
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