Physics Of Ice Skating
The formation of water is crucial to the physics of ice skating. Cold enough weather can make ice skating impossible.
While the sport of ice skating is considered a cold weather sport, and it is necessary to have ice to ice skate, the weather can become too cold to allow ice skates to work.
Ice skating is only possible due to a combination of things; pressure, the presence of water due to that pressure, and the reduced friction that water causes. The principle behind the functioning of ice skates involves the application the weight of the skater over the blades of the skates. On even the smallest skater the force per unit area generated over the narrow blades of the skates is equal to several hundred pounds of pressure per square inch. It is the pressure which causes ice to turn to water, or liquiefy under the skate's blades. The skates form a thin channel of liquid water which serves to reduce the friction between the skate blade the ice and allows the skater to "glide" over the surface of the ice.
The key factor here is the water, without which the act of "gliding" over the ice would be impossible. When temperatures fall below -20 Farenheit (approximately -29 Celsius) water tends to freeze almost instantaneously. The result is that the thin channel of water formed by the pressure of the skate blades is almost instantly frozen and therefore useless in friction reduction. Without this liquid water, skating is not possible because friction stops the movement of skates. Without the lubrication caused by water skating can not happen.
There is no exact temperature where this stopping of skating occurs. The factors of weight, wind chill, and pressure generated by the skates all effect the amount of water generated and the rate of freezing. The fact however is, at some point it will get too cold for ice skates to function.