Maintaining pristine ice for the nation’s only lagoon skating rink isn’t easy. It takes a team of RiverWalk Resort employees to keep the ice in tip-top shape for skaters all winter long. Starting in November, the RiverWalk’s 167,000-gallon outdoor lagoon swimming pool is transformed into a perfect sheet of ice with the help of a complex network of tubes carrying super-cooled glycol.
The unique ice rink was designed by Custom Ice, a Canadian company, to fit the shape of the lagoon pool perfectly. The technology currently only exists in five locations worldwide and RiverWalk Resort is lucky enough to be one of those select locations. Discover how the RiverWalk Resort engineering team maintains the ice rink all winter long for those who love to twirl under the stars.
Just like the human heart, the chiller pumps vital substances throughout the ice rink. Connected to about 15 miles of pex tubing six inches under the ice, the chiller chills 1,500 gallons of glycol to -5 degrees. The glycol is then circulated throughout the maze of tubing. This allows the ice to freeze the ice above and below the tubing.
Maintaining the top of the ice is just as important as maintaining the equipment below the ice. Due to the size and shape of the RiverWalk Resort’s ice skating rink, a custom-made Zamboni called the “Bumble Bee” was ordered to condition the ice. Will Harding, the Chief Facilities Manager at the RiverWalk Resort says, “the Bumble Bee serves to condition the ice and makes it as smooth as glass for the ultimate skating experience.”
“In combination with the chiller, the weather must also work with us hand-in-hand to make the best skating experience,” says Will. Just like the snow at Loon Mountain, Mother Nature can have a huge impact on the ice conditions. Thankfully, the staff at RiverWalk Resort are experts at clearing and maintaining the rink for eager skaters. Warmer days above 36 degrees makes the surface ice softer and prevents anyone from skating on the ice. “Once the ice is thick enough to hold skaters and the Zamboni, the surface of the ice is totally dependent on weather conditions,” says Will. If it rains or snows, the ice needs to be cleaned and conditioned before the rink can open. After big snowstorms, it can take up to a day to clean the rink and deck and to condition the ice for the perfect skate.
Over the course of a week, the RiverWalk Resort engineering team spends about 24 hours to maintain the ice for open skate hours. With the addition of special events and shows, the team spends approximately 430 hours per season conditioning and maintaining the rink. That doesn’t count the two weeks it takes the team in the fall to set up the rink and the two weeks at the end season to transform the ice rink back into a swimming pool.
Music and Skate
Riverwalk has its own high-tech lighting and sound production system for the rink and lagoon pool deck. Whether it’s an ice production event or a summer dance party, the RiverWalk Resort can accommodate any event with all the special lighting and sound needs.
“We currently have the skates maintained and sharpened professionally before the start of each season. Beyond that, the entire skating season, as well as special shows and events, are all handled in-house from set up, props, changing rooms, and more by the Riverwalk staff and the skating production teams. We will be adding an in-house skate sharpener in the future, as we do like to do as much as possible in house,” says Will.
The RiverWalk Resort ice skating rink is open to resort guests and the public Tuesday – Friday evenings 6 pm through 9 pm and on weekends from 1 pm to 9 pm. The rink is free for guest and $10 for non-guests. Rental skates in limited sizes are available for rent for an additional $10. After a day of skiing or winter adventures, head to the RiverWalk Resort for a spin around the fire pit under the stars.