What happens when the snow melt pit stops melting the snow? At the Complexe 2 Glaces Honco in St. Romuald, QC., it was a problem worth fixing.

Entrance to the Complexe 2 Glaces Honco in Saint-Romuald, Quebec
Entrance to the Complexe 2 Glaces Honco in Saint-Romuald, Quebec

Opened in 2015, the Complexe is a modern, privately-owned twin pad, fitness, meeting centre complete with pro shop. The layout of this facility is interesting. Both rinks are NHL-sized: one is a stadium-style with bowl seating for 1,500 spectators. But the 2nd rink has no spectator seating at all! The viewing area for the 2nd rink is only accessible through the second floor restaurant/bar which connects both rinks. The dressing rooms and fitness centre are on the building’s first floor, so players, coaches and referees are always separated from the spectators. You can take a virtual tour here – it’s worth the click. They also have a mini-hockey rink (see the 3rd picture below).

At the Complexe (in normal times), flooding averages 14 times per pad per day. Their Zamboni room has one filling station for their two Zamboni ice resurfacing machines – one is electric, the other is natural gas. Tucked in one corner next to the filling station is the facility’s snow melt pit.

Alex Audy, Operations Manager in the Zamboni room at Complexe 2 Glaces Honco in St. Romuald, QC.
Alex Audy, Operations Manager in the Zamboni room at Complexe 2 Glaces Honco in St. Romuald, QC.

Alex Audy is the Operations Manager for the Complexe, and he explains the snow melt pit was the only issue the operations team had with the entire facility. That began shortly after the building opened. The pit was designed to re-use waste heat from the refrigeration plant to run warm glycol through coils in the pit.

Those coils were supposed to melt the snow. But they didn’t work the way they should.

Piteous Pit

Like the property market, location is everything and the location of this pit’s coils was in the wrong subdivision, so to speak. Most of the coils had been located on just one side of the pit. Worse yet, they were a direct hit each time the ice resurfacing machine dumped the 100 cu. ft. or so of snow collected each time an ice make was made.

Consequently, the coils were prone to breaking. Even when they weren’t broken, there was never enough concentrated heat to melt the snow.

Because of that, Alex’s team ended up wasting hundreds of gallons of hot water each day trying to keep the growing mountain of snow in the pit melted. A large volume of water was continually being wasted, and, as critically, so was the manpower needed to do this mind-numbing job.

Fixing the snow melt pit so it actually melted the snow became a high priority item. Alex wanted more melting power — with no downtime due to broken coils.

Snow melt pit at Complexe 2 Glaces Honco in Levis, Quebec
Snow melt pit at Complexe 2 Glaces Honco in St-Romuald, Quebec

With the redesign of the snow melt pit, replacement coils were distributed away from the impact of the snow dump. As you can see from the picture above (right), a plastic shield was put into place to protect the coils and redirect the snow as it is being dumped. They also adjusted their temperatures. Now the pit water is kept at a consistent 26.6°C (80°F).

“It’s a great solution for a few reasons,” says Alex. “Now the snow dumped into the pit melts within two minutes of it hitting the water. Second, no water is wasted in melting the snow anymore, and third, the operators are able to perform much more meaningful tasks than spraying hot water onto the snow in the pit.”

Repairs not in the budget? Consider a de-icer for your snow melt pit

Melting the snow in the snow melt pit. Not low value work, but boring.
Melting the snow in a snow melt pit by hand.

If your snow melt pit isn’t working the way it should, there is another solution to consider. CanadianPond.ca out of Lac-Brome, QC is a specialist in de-icers for boats and docks. They carry de-icers for smaller applications like avoiding winter kill of fish in your backyard pond all the way up to protecting cargo ships and large docks all winter long. Their solutions are also used in Alberta’s Oil Sands.

A Kasco De-Icer from CanadianPond.ca
A Kasco De-Icer from CanadianPond.ca

Shayne Levoy, CanadianPond.ca’s director of sales explains that deicing works by mixing the warmer water (at the bottom of a basin) with colder (at the surface with snow and ice).

“Breaking the surface tension stops the surface of the water from reforming ice,” Shayne says. The cost? Levoy figures, depending on what you need, they can get you set up for under $1K (Canadian).

There are two different technologies available: propeller deicers and thaw line bubblers.

Propeller deicers (pictured above) are the least expensive of the two. They take more electricity, take up more place, gives a more vigorous mixing effect in a small area but come with the risk of creating slush. To use a propeller deicer, you would need to maintain at least 2 feet of water in your pit.

Thawline Bubblers are the more expensive option. They need less energy to run, but the only parts in the water is tubing. The tubes create a gentler deicing effect which is more more targeted — and you only need 7.7 cm (3″) of standing water to make them work.

Both options come in 120 or 240 Volt configurations (or 50Htz for Europe). There are add-ons that include timers and controls that can be set in a variety of ways, including photo cells and temperature.

Other Resources

Not sure what to do? The U.S. Ice Rink Association has a formula to calculate how much a broken snow melt pit is really costing – and that will help you make up your mind. Get your spreadsheet open and read about it here.

The Ontario Recreation Facilities Association (ORFA) has published Considerations For Designing An Ice Resurfacer Snow Melt Pit – you might want to check that out.

Another resource is right here on Re-Surfacing.com. Consider reclaiming the water from your snow melt pit like they’re doing at the Scott Seaman Sports Rink in the M.D. of Foothills #31 in Alberta, Canada.