Smooth as Ice, a novice's guide to ice skating
By: June Kallestad, Living North
Some people just want to move. Others desire a touchstone to their childhood. And then there are those who’ve watched the graceful moves of Olympic figure skaters and just can’t resist trying it for themselves.
Ice skating is an inexpensive, readily-accessible winter activity in the Northland. Sheets of smooth ice grace nearly every neighborhood park from December through March, and with Northlanders’ love of all things hockey-related, indoor rinks are nearly as ubiquitous. But for those of us who weren’t Dorothy Hamill or Scott Hamilton wannabes, or who didn’t grab puck and stick and join the hockey players, ice skating might be intimidating.
It shouldn’t be, according to Laura Lott, membership chairperson of the Duluth Figure Skating Club. “We offer the U.S. Figure Skating’s Basic Skills Program that is really about learning the fundamentals of skating, so it’s easy and safe,” she says.
From “Snowplow Sam” classes for age 5 or younger, to four levels of adult lessons and free skate with coaches nearby, there’s a place for everyone to learn or refresh skating skills. Skating doesn’t require many prerequisites, but there is one thing you definitely need – a great pair of ice skates.
Buying skates is pretty straightforward, says Shawna Davidson, manager of Stewart Bikes & Sports in Duluth. “The first thing we ask is, ‘Do you want to be at the pleasure rink with family and friends or pick up a stick and play a little shinny hockey?’ There are different kinds of recreational
skating and different skates.”
If you skated as a kid and had figure skates with toe picks, those might be the most comfortable for you as an adult. Those who dabbled in hockey might trip over toe picks, according to Davidson.
“It’s just what you’re used to, or want to get used to. You use your edges the same with both styles,” she says.
And while high-end skates can cost as much as $700 a pair, Davidson says you can find a decent pair of recreational hockey-style skates for $150 or less. Good figure skates run a little less, starting at $50, ranging up to $100. New on the market is a comfort skate for figure skaters. It has a boot with a liner, so it’s warmer than traditional leather figure skates, and it’s a little wider in the toe, but it has the traditional toe picks. They sell for $80 and up. Lott has really appreciated the skills, confidence and fitness her daughters have achieved by participating in the Duluth Figure Skating Club… so much so, that she decided to give skating a try.
“I watched my daughter do a move called the Mohawk and it looked so graceful,” she says. “So I tried it, and it gave me a new appreciation for how much she’s learned. I finally got it down, though. It was really fun and it’s never too late to start.”
To get information on the Duluth Figure Skating Club’s “Learn to Skate Program” go to www.duluthfsc.org or call 218-590-1710. For popular skating locations and contact information for open skate times go to sww.FitCityDuluth.com. Click on “Fitness Activities” and the ice skating icon, and then click on the “Locations” tab.
Ice Skating 101:
1. Find comfortable skates. Figure skates match up with shoe size. Hockey skates are a size or so larger than shoe size.
2. Walk first. Most rinks have rubber matting to walk around on. Focus on finding your center of gravity.
3. Stick to the edges. Start out walking on the ice, holding onto the wall. Try to relax.
4. Find your balance. Hold out your arms as you start out. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward, not back.
5. Squat. Go from standing to a slight squat, with your arms in front of you. Keep your eyes looking forward. Repeat.
6. Practice falling. It’ll happen, so be ready for it. When you anticipate a fall coming, bend your knees and squat into a dip position. If you put your hands out to break your fall, clench your fingers into a fist.
7. Move forward. Lean on your weak foot and push in a diagonal direction outwards with your strong foot. Swing your arms to propel you forward. Use short glides. As you gain confidence, take longer strides.
8. Learn to stop. Drag one skate blade behind you with the toe facing out. Drag gently until you stop. If you’re using figure skates, drag one skate toe behind you.