Outdoor rinks: Ever wonder how they are built and maintained?

Last updated January 13, 2022
Reading time: 2 min

Every winter, the city’s teams work hard to ensure that Montrealers can enjoy skating as long as possible, whatever nature has in store. To build an outdoor rink and keep it in good condition, several key steps must be followed.

Due to climate change, winters are becoming shorter and more unpredictable. This affects the quality of the rinks and the number of days they can be used.

A period of thaw or rain followed by a sudden freeze is just one of the weather conditions that causes issues for the city’s maintenance crews, who make every effort to maintain quality ice for as long as possible.

Major steps in building an outdoor rink


Starting in mid-October, the city teams install boards, put up mesh protection and patch the holes in the ground? with wooden planks. This stage lasts from four to six weeks, and must be finished before the first freezing period. 

Watering to prepare the ice

Three conditions must be met before the rink can be filled with water: There must be less than 10 cm of snow on the ground, the temperature must remain below -4°C for three consecutive days, and there must be no precipitation during the work. 

When the conditions are right, crews flood the surface of the rink, then apply several thin layers of water. Watering in the evening or at night is the best way to get perfect ice, because the sun slows down the process. After the rink is watered for a few cold nights, the ice is ready to use.

Maintenance and snow removal 

Rinks get damaged faster during high traffic periods or when people skate on a surface that has been watered within the past 30 minutes. In these cases, crews must re-water the rink to remove skate grooves in the ice.

Snow clearing from rinks can take a few days, depending on how much snow has fallen. Naturally, clearing the streets and sidewalks takes priority. To get back to enjoying the rinks more quickly, many residents bring their own shovels and clear the rinks in their neighbourhood as a group.

Before lacing up your skates, please see the list of outdoor skating rinks.

If the ice at the outdoor rinks is in poor shape due to the weather, visit one of the city’s arenas, where you can skate to your heart’s delight.

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