100 Mile House curlers are expected to return to the ice again in January, thanks to the efforts of the club’s ice-makers.
The ice-makers spent the past few weeks ripping out the ice and re-installing it after issues with consistently heavy ice at the start of the season. The problem arose after a water purification system was installed incorrectly last summer, resulting in purified water being sent down the drain and the concentrated mineral content water flowing into the tank to flood the ice.
Using quality, filtered water is key to the perfect ice, said long-time club member and ice-maker Richard Minato. Unfiltered water has a high mineral content that creates “greasy and heavy” ice.
“You want to make sure you have a nice smooth coat of ice across the sheet. We have 300 US gallons of water we can work with when we’re flooding so you have to be aware of how fast you’re going so you don’t run out of water,” Minato said. “I’ve marked the halfway point on the sheet and I know it takes about 20 minutes to get there. I give myself about a 20-gallon cushion.”
Creating the best ice surface takes hundreds of hours of flooding, shaving and pebbling. “To go from no ice to ready-to-curl there are so many steps to remember,” said Minato, who became interested in making curling ice in 2012 because “there are so many variables that affect the speed and curl of rocks.”
Flooding the rink is not as simple as attaching a hose to a water tank and letting it run. Instead, it involves 14 separate floods over several days.
Ice makers then use a flooding wand to ensure an even distribution of water across the ice. Once they’ve covered the sheet, it is left to freeze before another coat is added the next day.
After a few floods of the ice, Minato and the team will then freeze the hacks to the ice and mark points for the House using string and screws. Rather than paint the circles of the House like they used to, they now use cloth carpets covered in ice, which is more efficient and cost-effective.
Once the ice is in, the ice makers spend the rest of the season monitoring and maintaining it. The key is to ensure the temperature and humidity are kept low to avoid creating heavy ice.
“Ideally, I like to see a surface temperature of 22 F (minus-5.5 C) because that gives you the fastest surface we can get here,” Minato said.
Before every game, the ice-makers shave the top layer of the ice using an ice shaver and then re-pebble it with a sprinkler head attached to a spray tank. This pebbled surface is what allows rocks to curl. Without it, Minato said you couldn’t throw a rock very far.
The ice is expected to be finished by Wednesday, Dec. 21. League play resumes on Jan. 2, 2023.