It was about 80 degrees and sunny Saturday when Nate Niera tried skating on the artificial ice that was laid down in Point State Park for the Three Rivers Regatta.
"It's not like ice at all. It's not slippery," Nate, 7, of Ben Avon Heights said, moments before his skates went out from under him and he landed on the plastic mat that was substituting for real ice.
The artificial ice rink is one of the attractions of the Three Rivers Regatta, which featured no boats on Saturday. Instead there were the side shows of faux ice skating, dancers on the stage, a misting area and inflatable slides. Later in the afternoon, a sky diver, paid by the casino, jumped out of a plane to land on a giant roulette wheel.
Skating on slick plastic is to ice skating what artificial turf is to grass -- it's the same idea without the right give.
It's not until you have skated on an artificial surface that you realize just how much you actually dig into the ice when circling the rink at PPG in the winter.
There is no Zamboni needed to resurface the artificial ice. Instead, Eric Mason, 21, of Saugus, Mass., who works for Artificial Ice Events, sprays a silicone and water solution on the 4-foot-by-8-foot panels of 1/2-inch thick plastic.
Alex Aukamp, 9, of Lancaster, Lancaster County, fell while skating and found his hand coated in a sort of waxy-feeling substance.
"It's like an oil," he said.
Mr. Mason said the surface is different from actual ice and harder to skate on, yet used for conditioning by hockey players.
The trick to skating on it seems to be to keep your feet farther apart and take shorter steps. Gliding isn't as easy and the skates slip sideways when you push off.
Alex Verona, 21, of Cranberry, who worked at BladeRunners in Marshall for three years, was out on the ice and said it was fun to be in the sunshine and skating on a warm day.
Ann Belser: email@example.com or 412-263-1699.