By Julie Bonnin
Green Right Now

With unpredictable winter weather wreaking havoc on traditional Currier & Ives skating scenes, synthetic ice may be the only thing that can salvage one of winter’s favorite pastimes.

So when skaters flock to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City Saturday for the Nov. 22 opening of a 150-foot rink that features a 17-foot tall stainless steel polar bear at its center, they will be gliding across a surface that feels like ice, but won’t consume huge amounts of water and refrigeration. The faux ice rink will operate through Feb. 28, and for holiday seasons to come.

Appropriately, information about Earth’s polar regions and green tips will be posted around the exterior of the iceless rink. Hundreds of similar rinks in Florida, Michigan and far-flung places around the world also welcome skaters, winter weather or no.

“About three years ago we started getting calls from Canada,” says Perry Boskus, founder of Super-Glide Skating, the Florida-based company that made the “Polar Rink” for the American Museum of Natural History, among others.

“They were saying, ‘Our ice isn’t freezing; our ice isn’t freezing.’ Then when it’s cold, it’s so cold they can’t go out there.”

Synthetic rink buyers in other parts of the world are primarily interested in saving money, Boskus says, but the energy conservation that accompanies the new age rinks is considerable. A typical small commercial rink in a shopping mall requires about $30,000 worth of electricity a month to operate.

Companies that make synthetic rinks, often made of plastic resin panels coated with wax (Boskus says the Super-Glide core surface is infused with lubricating pellets devised by the chemist who created artifical snow), are also selling to a residential market that includes families with figure skaters, speed skaters or hockey players (and big back yards).

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