Grooming a sheet of ice is a "marvel" — at least The History Channel seems to think so, with its latest "Modern Marvels" series featuring Utah's Olympic Oval ice rink and Olympic Park bobsled track.

The episode, titled "Ice," will debut Sunday at 6 p.m. And those who mind the ice at the two Utah venues appreciated a chance to explain their work on television.

After taking a peek into the detailed care and technologically advanced systems that maintain the recreational playgrounds, it becomes evident how technical ice care can become.

"There's a lot more effort than a lot of people think," said Marc Norman, director of the Utah Olympic Oval. "They think you just kind of throw a hose over it and it freezes. I think the best (thing about the show) was being able to explain all that goes into it."

A camera crew from the television series filmed both 2002 Winter Games venues to see just how the competitive ice tracks are kept in shape. The crew wanted details — and the competitive courses did not disappoint.

At the Olympic Oval in Kearns, Norman showed off the purified water that is used to create the ice, which is also kept clean by a high-efficiency air filter.

"Basically, our main goal is eliminating dirt or anything else getting into the ice's surface, because that slows down the skaters and puts drags on their blades, and of course, their times are a little slower," Norman said.

During a competition, such as the World Speed Skating Championships coming to the oval in March, ice care gets even more specific. The rink is monitored by a computer system that reports temperature every three minutes. That temperature varies, depending on the race. The ice is also shaved extremely thin for a competitive race.

All of that ensures a fair competition, Norman said, and also gives the Olympic Oval the international reputation of being one of the fastest speed-skating rinks.

David Dinger, track manager at the Olympic Park in Park City, said a crew of about 10 people keeps the mile-long bobsled, luge and skeleton track in premiere condition. The crew follows a "spritzing" practice, where a fine coat of water is applied on the refrigerated track to keep it from drying out and to make it fast, resilient and malleable, Dinger said.

"There's constantly something to do on the track. The ice is on vertical walls, and it's under the force of gravity, and it's also receding downward. We're always applying new water," he added. "The goal is always smooth, fast ice. It doesn't matter which discipline: bobsled, luge or skeleton. They're all interested in getting the fastest ice."

Manicuring the ice by hand also keeps it fast. When heavy sleds create a rut on the ice, those cuts are repaired by patching them with slush. And a razor, about 4-8 inches wide, scrapes any high spots, bumps or slush holes that have formed.

"All of the curves have different profiles and shapes and radiuses," Dinger said. "That's a lot of scraping to keep the track in tip-top shape."

Both Olympic venues hope that The History Channel show will spread the message that they're not just for the professionals.

The oval has public skating, skating camps and clinics, hockey and an indoor soccer field. And the park has a museum, bobsled rides, adventure sports camps, zipline and alpine slides that are open to the public. For more information, visit olyparks.com.

To find out more on The History Channel's "Modern Marvels: Ice" segment, check out history.com.


E-mail: astowell@desnews.com