Skaters, Coaches and Officials should understand the general issues that affect the ice conditions for competitive skaters and how they can be mediated. Some issues can be corrected during a flood, others in a twenty four hour period but some problems that occur are a result of the building’s initial construction or major equipment issues.
Figure Skating ice is the softest of all Olympic ice surfaces; however, no area on the ice surface should be warmer than -2°C (28.4°F). If the ice does not freeze quickly after a flood it could be due to a number of issues relating to the refrigeration equipment, humidity, ventilation, airflow, flood management, and/or the ice thickness (if the ice is greater than 5 cm). (Cimco Lewis) Soft ice conditions result in the blade edges cutting too deep into the ice surface resulting in a sluggish feeling and less flow. Hard ice (colder than -5°C or 23°F) may not allow the edges to cut the ice for good edge definition and power. Hard ice will also result in larger chunks of ice being chipped out when skaters set for toe jumps. This can create a safety hazard. Altering the skater's blade root can help adjust for arena ice temperature variations.
PBHE has the skill and expertise to help a skater find the right blade root when skating on a different ice surface. We recommend determining the ice temperature of your training ice surface and then of your competition's ice surface by using an Infrared Digital Thermometer (purchase available soon!) in the locations shown in the below diagram (A to E). This will give you and PBHE a good understanding of the temperature variances. Depending on the temperature variances PBHE can then suggest a root that will help compensate for the different ice conditions. It is always recommended to try a new blade root a week before competing and/or have your second pair of skates sharpened with your original blade root in case there is any discomfort. Many of PBHE's competitive skaters train with multiple pairs of skates so that they can interchange them during competitions in case of equipment loss during travel, equipment malfunction, or varying competition environments.
High level technical information regarding ice quality, maintenance and construction can be found below.
The documents referenced on this page go into significant detail for each of these topics.
Suggested Ice Temperatures set by Olympic Specification (Vancouver 2010):
Figure Skating -3°C (26.6°F) Approx. 4.5 cm ice thickness
Speed Skating Short Track -5.5°C (22.1°F) Approx. 4 cm ice thickness
Hockey Between -5°C and -7°C (23 and 19.4°F)
Speed Skating Long Track Between -5°C and -9°C (23 and 15.8°F)
** Standard water on the ice will register as 0°C (32°F) on infrared thermometer
Ice Making/Maintenance Water Quality (Theiler, Jeff):
Soft water, which has a low mineral content is required for ideal ice making. The optimal total dissolved solids (TDS) should be 50 to 100 parts per million. Hard water (white mineral buildup that plugs faucets and shower heads) reduces the surface smoothness and increases drag on the blade.
Ice Surface Maintenance Water Temperature (Theiler, Jeff):
Temperature of the ice surface maintenance water should be between 60°C to 71°C (140°F and 160°F). This is the temperature when the water has less oxygen molecules. Oxygen molecules prevent the water molecules from compacting tightly together and results in the ice feeling soft and brittle, with deep grooves and abundance of snow buildup.
Building Temperature (Cimco Lewis):
Arena air temperature will have a direct effect on ice surface temperature. Removing hockey glass and boards for media purposes will increase the ice surface temperature. For this reason a larger refrigeration and dehumidifier system may be requirement.
Building Humidity Levels:
Humidity level contributors can warm ice surface temperature and create build up on the ice surface. The solution is adequate dehumidification equipment and controlling outside air entering the arena. (Cimco Lewis) Good ice can be made in large arenas where the air temperature is 17°C (65°F to 68°F). (Cimco) The relative humidity should be approximately 40%. (Theiler, Jeff)
Heat of Fusion:
Some of our readings at major arenas show both liquid (water) and solid (ice) states while the temperature is 0˚C. For information on how this is possible follow this link on Heat of Fusion (334 Joules/gram): http://www.kentchemistry.com/links/Energy/HeatFusion.htm
Cimco Lewis, Things you should know about Ice Rink Construction. Pages 24-28. Toronto.
“Olympic Ice Making.” Vancouver 2010. 2010. 3 August 2016. <http://www.eyeontheice.com/documents/olympic%20ice%20making.pdf>.
Theiler, Jeff. “What Makes Quality Ice?” US Figure Skating. May 2011. 3 August 2016. <www.usfsa.org/content/What%20Makes%20Quality%20Ice.pdf>.