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Choosing your rink depends on nature; Debate rages over deciding to build the plastic or traditional kind

Building a rink at our house each winter triggers an argument I mean a discussion: plastic or traditional?

I'm old-school and prefer waiting for the first good snowfall with temperatures in the low 20s or teens. We pack the snow down, spray it with a light to moderate coat of water and let it freeze.

Then we spray and freeze spray and freeze spray and

After a couple of days, the backyard looks like a Wisconsin truck stop, with frozen ruts, boot prints and lumps everywhere.

Now the rink is getting somewhere.

If it snows, we shovel and flood it again.

From then on, it's watering every night. After maybe a week, we're skating.

So what's the problem?

My wife -- who was brought up on a traditional packed-snow rink -- has crossed over and now prefers building a wood frame, lining it with plastic, filling it like a wading pool and letting it freeze.

Sounds appealing. You can be out skating as soon as it's solid, without all the spraying and freezing. The ice is perfectly level. The rink is beautiful. And it can survive a thaw.

So why the debate?

One reason: the tree. We have a tree in the corner of the yard. I like to build the rink around it. The plastic method means cutting off that small corner of the yard, since we can't build a frame around the tree and keep the plastic intact.

(Is someone being stubborn?)

This year we had light snow in our neighborhood before Christmas, and it didn't get really cold, so the rink flooding was limited. We were stalled at the Wisconsin truck stop stage.

Other kids in the neighborhood were skating on their plastic-lined rinks while I was still watering and muttering.

But the final straw came with the thaw a few weeks ago. A plastic-lined rink can survive a thaw. It just freezes again. My traditional rink just melted away.

So -- please don't tell my wife -- next year I'm going with plastic.

We'll see if anyone misses skating around the tree.


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