An unseasonably warm autumn wasn’t enough to delay the start of the curling season, which officially launched in Vankleek Hill on Monday.
Darcy Conway is responsible for preparing the two sheets of ice at the Vankleek Hill Curling Club. It’s his sixth year making the ice and he told The Review that patience is key.
On average, Conway said it takes him about three weeks to prepare the ice surface. If pressed, he says he could do it in two weeks, but he prefers to let the ice harden between floods. He also likes to take a bit of extra care to ensure the surface is level and perfect for the opening of the season.
The base of the ice sheets is sand. This is where the patience comes in. During the first step in preparing the ice you have to very slowly wet the sand using a low-pressure garden hose. If you add too much water, too quickly, the sand will rise to the surface and make a muddy mess. The goal is to completely saturate the surface, ensuring there is no puddling. Then you turn on the compressor, which drops the temperature to zero degrees Celsius.
“Then you let it freeze for a few days. When you come back, you use a garden hose and spray little bits at a time, otherwise the mud comes up to the surface,” said Conway.
Once the ice sheets begin to hold water and all of the drains have been blocked, you can begin to flood the sheet and bring up the ice level. In between the flooding, the ice is scraped by hand to ensure a level surface is maintained. Conway has seven different scraping patterns he follows to keep the sides of the rink down and to keep the centre from buckling. The goal is to have as level of a surface as possible.
After the rink has been flooded and scraped a few times, James Sage comes in and paints the curling patterns and logos onto the ice. The ice is then sealed by lightly spraying it a few times with water. This ensures that the paint doesn’t come off when the rocks slide up the ice sheets.
After the ice has been prepared it is set for the season. One additional flood may be done mid-season to address minor wear and tear issues.