ST. LOUIS, Mo. – When meteorologists talk ice, it’s usually not a good thing. But for this local company, making ice is a business, and it is dependent on St. Louis weather.
The warm early November weather meant Steinberg Ice Rink is opening a week later than scheduled. They began making ice last Thursday, once the temperatures returned to normal.
“It is a six to seven-day process. We start usually at dusk. It’s a thin layer of paper. We do two coats of that. And we just add water with a fire hose. Just a little bit at a time. So you wait for it to freeze. Then you add more. Usually about a sixteenth of an inch at a time,” said Jeff Kasal, Manager of Steinberg Ice Rink.
They repeat this process until they have two inches of ice. Ice making begins at dusk because the sun really hampers the ice-making process. For this, the temperatures overnight are key. Obviously, it can’t be too warm, but temperatures too low can also be a problem.
“They don’t have to be freezing. If it gets too cold then our hoses start freezing up. So actually, there’s a sweet spot right around 30 to 40 degrees,” Kasal said.
Once the ice rink is ready to go, daytime temperatures can have an impact.
“Sometimes it does get wet during the day but by the time the sun goes down it’s usually frozen solid again. And its just as thin layer of water so if you fall you get a little wet,” said Kasal. “We have a cooling system that runs at four degrees under the ice that keeps it frozen but the colder the temperature the harder the ice.”
Wind speed and direction seems to have a bigger impact on the ice than the temperature alone. A warm southerly wind will melt the ice faster than no wind or a cold wind from the north.
“It all depends on the wind. If it’s a southern wind it can get soft at 40 degrees. If there’s no wind at 50 or 55 it can be frozen solid,” Kasal explained.
And precipitation, whether it’s liquid or frozen is something that requires some extra care to keep the ice in good shape.
“Rain. Usually it takes us a couple days to get the rain ice off if it rains it’s a different ice. It’s more brittle. It breaks,” said Kasal. “Running the Zamboni and you know skaters break it up and we just eventually scrape it off. The Zamboni scrapes off a sixteenth of an inch of ice and we add the same amount with new water.”
When it snows, they stay on top of getting it off the rink since it won’t melt and can pile up quickly.
“It gets a little hard. It’s fun at first but once it gets a little deep it’s a little harder. And it takes a while to get the snow off when we let it get too high,” Kasal said.
This year will of course look different at Steinberg Ice Rink. They will be limiting capacity to 100 skaters so everyone will have to pay admission whether you’re skating or not. It will be on a first come first serve basis.
“It’s an all outside facility now. We’ll still have the bonfire. But just practice social distancing. Come out and skate out in the open air with your mask on of course,” Kasal said.