June 7, 2021

Here's what it takes to create 'the fastest ice in the world'

Olympic Oval team working hard to be ready for 2021-22 season
Olympic Oval operations team paints lines on the ice, David Vink

After the Olympic Oval was shut down for nearly 12 months, the oval team is working hard to be ready for the 2021/2022 season. It was a tough year because the ice had to be taken out prematurely due to a mechanical issueHaving worked to resolve the issue, the oval is close to re-opening. This is a critical year for speedskating, Canada’s highest Winter Olympic medal-winning sport. Opening the oval will enable the Canadian National Team to resume training in the buildup to the Beijing Olympics.

There is a reason why speedskaters anecdotally refer to the Olympic Oval as ‘Canada’s medal factory’ — that's because the oval provides world-class facilities and ice to allow skaters to perform at their absolute best.

“It’s exciting to see the ice back in and know that our national long-track team (team singular) will soon be able to resume training for Beijing 2022. We also can’t wait to welcome the university community and Calgarians back to enjoy all that our facility has to offer,” says Peter McCrory, director of the Olympic Oval.

How to create the fastest ice in the world

It is a lot of work to create fast ice.

“We’re fortunate to have a highly trained team of professionals who really know how to get the job done and create an ice quality that competes with anywhere else in the world,” acknowledges the oval’s operations manager, Mark Messer. 

It starts with cooling the concrete bed to about -7 C. Then they place the first layer of ice down using a Jet Ice sprayer (it looks like a mini crop duster). Once three thin layers seal the concrete, this same sprayer sprays a coating of special white water-based paint that immediately freezes on the ice (who knew?). Since the ice is naturally clear, painting is required to get the brilliant white arena look. 

Olympic Oval operations crew paints the ice white with Jet Ice sprayer.

David Vink

After the paint job is finished, the team adds official logos and lines onto the ice. At the same time, sensors are added for timing and race results. The team seals the ice again and finally adds more layers (about 1 ¼ inch) to the ice to seal it completely. 

“It’s an exact science, but the oval operations team, after all, has been doing this for 34 years,” says Messer.  

Oval ice makers’ expertise internationally recognized  

The team have also helped eight Olympic cities with their ice (including Beijing next 2022) with their ice-making process. This is why the Olympic Oval continues to be known as 'The Fastest Ice in the World.' 

After the last 15 months of a global pandemic, Calgarians need places to recreate and participate in sport for their physical and mental well-being. The oval offers opportunities for families and athletes to recreate and train under the same roof. Now is the time to get those skates sharpened and ready for the season because the oval team can’t wait to welcome you back to this amazing facility. 

As the ice surfaces are prepared, follow the progress on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @theolympicoval and stay tuned to the oval website for details of when the doors will open to the public, COVID-19 restrictions permitting. 

The Faculty of Kinesiology is ranked No. 1 in North America and No.11 in the world, according to the ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Sport Science Schools and Departments.