Minnesota, Outdoor Fitness, Parenthood

How to Build an Ice Rink on a Lake

Ice skating is such a fun family activity and having a rink in your yard makes it so much more special. Growing up my dad made us a rink each year in our yard in the middle of the city of Nordeast Minneapolis. When my family moved onto a lake I knew we would have to uphold his tradition. I figured we would have it a lot easier having the lake as the base. In some ways we do, but in other ways it feels even harder. In this post I’ll go over what we have figured out in the past four winters on our quest to build the perfect lake top ice rink. Full disclosure …. We are not at perfect yet, but we are getting there! 😉

What you need:

  • A lake or pond 😉
  • Wide Snow Shovel  – Any shovel will do, but you will be happy to have a wide one!
  • Push Broom or Leaf Blower
  • Ice Auger
  • Transfer Pump – This is similar to the pump we are using, there are a lot of options. Depending on the size of your rink you may want a stronger pump.
  • Garden Hose – You want a hose that can reach from the hole you drill to all areas of your rink. If your house hose can already reach your rink you can skip the whole pumping part!
  • Extension Cord (or 2) – Depending on the distance from your power source to the lake you will need an extension cord for your pump. There are gas options for pumps as well.

Building the Rink:

Choose Area:

You may not have much choice of area, but if you do try to find somewhere out of the wind. You will obviously also want the area to be flat. For us, we have learned over the years to walk out further onto the lake to create the rink. As lakes freeze the ice often pushes against the shoreline and if you build your rink too close to shore you will end up with a slanted rink. So walk out a good 30 feet or so before you start your rink!

Clear Area:

Depending on how much snow you have had this can be an easy step or a very hard step. It is also a commitment you make when you decide to create a rink. You must keep it clear. Each time it snows, you shovel it. So, to begin you basically just shovel off the area you have chosen. Once it is shoveled well you clear the area with a broom or a leaf blower. We found a leaf blower works excellent! You want to get as much of the snow off as possible. If you have nice smooth ice, you can even start skating on it after this step! =)

Create Good Edges:

As you clear the area do your best to create nice edges around the rink. When you begin to put water on the rink you want to spray the edges first to get them nice and strong. This way they will hold in the water when you pump it.

Pump Water:

The best time to flood the rink is on a nice warm and sunny winter day (above freezing if possible) when you know the night will be cold (below freezing). This way the water can fill the rink better without freezing immediately when you pour it on. Then, overnight it will freeze and you will wake up to a smooth rink. You may have to repeat this process several time before you achieve the smoothness you are looking for.

To pump the water first you will need to choose the best spot to drill your hole. You want the hole to be somewhere, where your hose will be able to reach the entire rink. You do not want your hole on the rink, you want it off to the side outside the edges. Then you drill the hole. After you drill the hole you insert the hose that comes with pump into the hole, to the other end of your pump you attach a different longer hose. Then you flood the rink. start further away and work back towards your hole. If it is a warmer day you may be able to just leave the hose there filling the rink. On a colder day you should definitely stay with your hose and move it as you go. As I said earlier it may take several nights of flooding to achieve the smoothness you want! Its definitely a process. )

Be Safe!

It’s important to remember that you are on a lake, and its public property. Snowmobiles, four wheelers, etc. may be traveling by your rink. If you can mark the corners with something reflective. This is safe for both you and others. If you are out at night have a big bright spotlight so people can’t miss you. Obviously do not go on the ice before it is safe, and even when it is nice and thick don’t let your children out of your sight on the ice, and don’t go alone. At the least, make sure someone knows you are on the rink. Teach your kids ice safety, and of course, consider wearing helmets 😉

Stay Warm!

One disadvantage to a lake top rink as opposed to a backyard rink is the distance from your shelter (and power). If you have a portable ice house we have found it to be very helpful to set up a little warming house with a chair for changing skates, and a heater so the kids can warm up without have to make the trek up our hill to the house. This is one of the best things we have figured out to keep the whole family happy! =)


Enjoy the memories you and your family will create on your rink! It is a lot of work to maintain, but it is so worth it! I hope these tips help you create the lake top rink of your dreams! Let me know if you have any other tips? We are definitely still learning and I promise to update this blog if we catch onto anything new and fabulous!

Much Love & Happy Skating!


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  • Reply Jeff Perry

    Our first winter on the lake, and we did everything wrong with our rink. Thanks for the tips! We’ll do better next year.

    February 27, 2022 at 11:06 pm
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