"We never had those cold nights followed by cold days”
Warm temperatures and massive snowfalls have cramped the ice-making capabilities at Big Mine Ice Arena in Crested Butte and at the ice rink in Crested Butte South.
Typically, rink crews look for clear and cold temperatures around the end of November to start flooding the rinks with water to build layers of ice to last the entire season.
Last year, the weather cooperated and Big Mine Ice Arena was open by December 4, tying the record as the earliest opening since the rink’s inception.
Yet this year Mother Nature has taken on a different visage at winter’s start and the town has yet to experience the cold snap needed for making ice.
“We never had those cold nights followed by cold days,” says parks and recreation director Bob Piccaro.
According to parks supervisor Pete Curvin, the crew has been ready since mid-November to start making ice but managed to get only two floods done since then.
“Basically, we got two floods in the past two weeks,” says Curvin. “We went for it with the windows we had.”
Currently, two and a half inches of ice sit underneath the recent snows and the crew is now waiting for a break in the weather to continue the process.
According to Piccaro, the snow helps: it protects the ice from the warm temperatures and intense sun—saving what is down right now.
“Right now the snow is acting as a shield,” says Piccaro.
The problem is that with the constant snow, be it heavy or flurries, the crew is unable to continue flooding. When snow mixes in with the flooding process it can prove troublesome in the future.
“You can’t have snow with the flood,” explains Curvin. “It makes a weak or punchy layer and that will kill us in February.”
Monday night, the Town of Crested Butte crews had the rink cleared of snow and ran the Zamboni over it for three hot water layers before it started snowing again.
“Last night it looked really good for what it is,” says Curvin.
Curvin is committed to getting people on the ice whenever possible without compromising the overall integrity.
“I hate having it just sit there,” says Curvin. “Right now, any break in the storm and we’ll let people skate.”
He adds that the rink will be just for open skate and maybe some small kids’ practices. The bigger hockey players will have to wait until the ice reaches its optimum thickness of five and three quarter inches before they can start practicing and playing games.
According to Crested Butte South Property Owners Association manager Chris Behan, Crested Butte South managed to get four to five floods in on their rink before the recent snows, but have taken a step back since then.
“The snow on Saturday mashed what we had down and kind of rotted it,” says Behan.
Yet, they too are close to getting their rink up and going—they just need a break in the snow cycle.
“As soon as the snow stops we’ve got three or four days and we’ll get it ready to go,” says Behan. “I never root against the snow but we need it to stop snowing.”