Calgary man's battery-powered ice resurfacer smooths the way for small outdoor rinks
Lightweight Porta Ice proving popular across the city and beyond
WATCH | Check out the mini ice surfacer in action in the video above
Anyone who has tried to create an outdoor rink knows that getting a consistent, smooth surface is an ongoing challenge.
This year, outdoor rinks are more popular than ever — and one Calgary company has stepped in to smooth the way.
A miniature ice resurfacer called the Porta Ice, about the size of a riding lawn mower, is growing in popularity.
"It's small, compact. It's battery-powered. It has a large tank," inventor and owner Chris Yenna said.
Yenna said he built the first machine a few years ago as a hobby, and has been producing them for others for two years now.
"I started, at first, just kind of a lawn service to keep myself busy in the winter time," Yenna said. "And I enjoyed coming out and maintaining ice rinks. So then it just kind of was a more of a hobby that turned into a full-time job, into a career. So it's definitely a dream came true."
The Porta Ice is easy to operate and maintain, he said, without the worry of complicated repairs like with "some of the bigger machines out there."
Yenna said he has sold 15 of the compact machines over the past two years, and word is getting out.
"We have three in production right now, as we speak, that are going out. We're almost at that point to where we're starting a waiting list," he said. "We have some in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba, and ... in the states as well."
Yenna said hockey schools and training facilities are among the interested customers, as they appreciate the small size of the machines and the fact they run on batteries. That makes them especially well suited to smaller ice surfaces, like a community outdoor rink.
"We do our best as volunteers, but we're using a hose, shovels, sweepers," said Landen Field, a board member with the Cedarbrae Community Association.
He said a small, user-friendly ice resurfacer can be a game changer for the volunteers who maintain small ice rinks.
"It just gives kids a feel like they're playing indoors when they can go out and skate on an ice that has no bumps, no lumps, no cracks," he said.
"The puck flies down the ice beautifully. The kids skate down the ice beautifully with no issues of maybe hurting a knee or hurting an ankle, catching a rut."
Yenna says keeping ice maintained means keeping people safe.
"Sometimes it's [having] the right tools for the job," he said, adding that the 500-litre tank is big enough to do a full-sized ice rink.
"It's great for ponds, lakes, all kinds of different community ice rinks due to the fact of its lightweight," he said.
"Some of the bigger companies out there, their units can weigh close to 10,000 pounds when they're all loaded up. So it's a big benefit to have a lighter, more versatile machine."
The Porta Ice machines sell for about $40,000.
With files from Tiphanie Roquette and Jocelyn Boissonnealt