City crews are working to build ice on the three public rinks in Bozeman parks but are still a bit away from having a finished product.
With early season, and often unpredictable, conditions, city Parks and Cemetery Superintendent Thom White said crews just started laying ice down about five days ago.
Though some eager skaters were already making use of the ice laid down under the Anderson Pavilion at Bogert Park on Thursday afternoon, White said it is hard to say when the rinks at Bogert, Beall and South Side Parks will be fully open.
“It depends on Mother Nature ... if we had really cold weather and no snow, and we didn’t have to work on anything else but ice rinks, we could probably have skate-able rinks by next weekend,” White said, noting that the weather forecast indicates snow might be on the way and that temperatures might warm up slightly.
“It’s weather dependent. If we get into the 30s next week like they’re projecting there’s not much work we can do, because water won’t freeze,” he said.
It’s certainly not the first year that weather has been the city’s biggest obstacle to getting the rinks fully open — the rinks’ opening was delayed by about a month last year due to warm temperatures, and 2019 saw similar delays.
White said higher temperatures may not impact existing ice, but it does make it hard to add more layers of ice on top.
“It’s a lot easier to maintain an already built ice rink at 28 degrees than trying to build one at 28 degrees,” White said. “If we have a solid monolithic slab that’s frozen, 30 degrees won’t affect what’s there but we can’t put much water down.”
White noted that weather forecasts aren’t always spot on, meaning they have to plan their work on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. But he emphasized city crews are working hard on the rinks.
“Nobody wants these things built more than our guys do,” White said. “Early season conditions exist, and we will get them open as soon as we possibly can without sacrificing safety … we’re just kind of at the mercy of the weather.”