Correction appended

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and shuttered sports facilities, many young athletes got sidelined. The lack of cleats, bats and skates put many aspiring athletes into a funk.

But two intrepid Taos moms, Alison Foley and Mary Bishop, refused to call timeout on their daughters' passion for figure skating, and built backyard ice skating rinks so their girls could practice through the winter.

"I got a text one day saying, 'Look what we did,'" said Judy Pearson, who trains Foley's and Bishop's daughters, and the former head coach of the Skating Club of Taos.

Nowhere to skate

Foley's daughter Violet, 14, has been skating since she was in the first grade, training under Pearson at the Taos Youth and Family Center.

When the rink shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions in March, Foley came up with the idea of a backyard version.

"It was a bit of a challenge to build. It's still a work in progress," said Foley, who learned how to construct her rink by watching countless YouTube videos.

For Bishop, inspiration came after paddleboard season ended, and she looked for activities to keep her girls busy outdoors. Her daughter Lillian, 13, also gets coached by Pearson.

"They're not getting PE with school. Virtual PE isn't exactly physical," said Bishop. "It's a good idea to get them outside exercising."

Made in the shade

There are a thousand ways to construct a backyard skating rink, as both moms found out.

Foley began with 2-by-10s, creating an 11-by-30-foot frame, and put down a leveled layer of sand. Next, she put down a white plastic liner -- white works best because it reflects sunlight and prevents the ice from melting.

Then she added water – in multiple stages – from the garden hose. Since the yard isn't level, the ice is four inches thick on one end and closer to eight inches on the other.

"She just started doing jumps a couple of days ago. That's how long we've been working on getting the ice right," said Foley, who began construction in December.

Bishop searched her yard for the shadiest spot, so the sun would not melt the ice. She used spare railroad ties to create a 15-by-30-foot perimeter, and laid a liner down before filling it with water. She surrounded it with a wooden fence, to keep the rink in the shade.

Violet and Lillian make the most of their backyard rinks, skating daily. And while the Taos Youth and Family Center remains closed for the near future, they've both got a place to skate – at least until the ice melts.

"She's not going to parties. She's not hanging out with friends. This is a way to get her outside and do something, and maybe forget about isolation for a little bit," said Foley.

"When she first got on the ice, and I heard that sound of skates scraping, it just filled me with joy," said Foley.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the girls were from Dixon. The girls are from Taos and their coach is from Dixon.

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