More than a century ago, we let nature take its course. We skated when the ice was thick enough--on a lake, a pond, a river--or possibly a human made rink. Two to three inches was more than enough. Then we put electricity to work and created artificial rinks, indoors and outdoors. Ice skating became a year round possibility, for hockey games and fun, for figure skating and speed skating. I even recall seeing a “patinoire” outside the five star hotel in the tropics of Africa, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, not far from the Equator.
Now we have progressed one step further. Outside the American Museum of Natural History in NY City, is the Polar Rink, a rink of synthetic ice, for iceless ice skating. No water, no cold weather, very little maintenance. Is this the wave of the future? Already on the internet are a number of businesses that supply synthetic ice for your community center or your backyard.
I had to try it. The day I went, it was actually snowing, so the plastic/synthetic ice had snow on it and that made it seem more authentic. How was the “ice?” Twas interesting as a new first for me, but finally disappointing. One had to work at it, much less slide and glide, more pushing and then slowing down. It may be a good way for kids to learn, and dozens of kids were enjoying it. But alas, not up to my more traditional expectation and experience of ice skating. Yet maybe in the midst of summer, as I show up with a tee shirt and Bermuda shorts, I might give the iceless ice another try.
Peter Schineller, S.J.