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It's just an ice dream

Trying to put the big chill on your hot swimming pool with huge blocks of ice only cools things off in your mind, say ice companies, which are nevertheless happy to oblige.

After weeks of sweltering sun, outdoor pools feel more like hot tubs, and Americans have found a new way to melt their money away.

Dedicated pool owners are dropping hundreds of pounds of ice into their 90-degree pools in hopes of some relief. There's only one problem: It doesn't really work.

Sno Cap Ice Inc. in St. Louis sells a 270-pound block for $30, but with a warning: "We tell them right upfront that it doesn't really work except psychologically. You have nice clear blocks of ice floating in the pool. But it doesn't cool anything off," says manager Bob Cordes Sr.

Tom Niemeier, a St. Louis architect, says he had to try it for himself for an upcoming pool party. He learned that he would have to buy an awful lot of ice for what was at best just a brief chill. For $55, Niemeier bought 800 pounds of ice in 10-pound blocks from nearby Glacier Ice and dumped it into his 94-degree pool.

"It melted in 20 to 30 minutes, and I stood there thinking that this must be the stupidest thing I've ever done," he says.

Still, Niemeier thinks the ice did help: "I put my hand in, and it felt a little cooler _ maybe a four- or five-degree difference." When his 100 guests arrived for their summer extravaganza, the pool was cooled to the upper 80s, a refreshing 10 degrees cooler than the air temperature.

Pool services say the optimum temperature for an outdoor pool is 76 to 82 degrees, but in the blistering heat seen in many parts of the country this summer, waters can reach 95 degrees and higher.

Ice manufacturers in Missouri say they have never had this much business, but Texas ice companies are used to the summer drill.

Darren Boruff, president of Arctic Ice House in Dallas, says he gets hundreds of calls each summer. "I tell them it is like putting a single ice cube into a gallon of hot ice tea," Boruff says. "It's not going to do anything, but they say they don't care." He says his 300-pound blocks are big sellers _ at $60 each _ on holiday weekends.

"Parents drop them in pools, and kids slide down hills on them," Boruff says. Partygoers even use large blocks for a drinking game called the Luge Shot, he says. "You drill a hole in a 300-pound block and pour your favorite summer drink down it," he says. "By the time it hits your mouth, it's cool."

In St. Louis, Niemeier is preparing to put the big chill on his end-of-summer pool parties. "Next time, I'm going to buy 1,500 pounds of ice," he says.