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How To Ice Skate

by Sarah on November 5, 2010

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How to ice skate . . . One glimpse of a figure skater or the churning speed of a hockey player, and it’s a rare child (or adult) that doesn’t yearn to master these moves too.


It’s like flying – why wouldn’t you want to soar over the ice?


Skating is a great way to exercise.  As you get proficient and can really spend more time on the ice cruising around, your thighs start tightening.  Your buttocks solidify.


And it’s fun!  You can play tag, twirl, try fancy footwork, dance together holding hands.  And for folks who like the epic journey experience, more and more northern communities are clearing long trails on lakes and rivers for the kind of long-distance skating done in Scandinavia.


As a family we’ve spent hours cruising on our small pond.  (Yes, it got cleared before the driveway after a snowstorm – we had our priorities straight).


Lots of laughter, bright cheeks and activity.  Not to mention a good excuse for hot chocolate or chili afterwards.


Okay – sound good?  But how do you get started?


Good Ice Skates Make All the Difference


My parents love to laugh about the one and only time we went skating as a family.  They rented skates at Rockefeller Center and I wore a couple of double-runner blades that they had purchased.  However, their rental skates were so flimsy that they spent the whole circuit  - one on either side of me – leaning onto my 3-year-old sturdiness to get around.


Good skates with proper ankle support are a must. 


They don’t have to be new – we’ve found lots of great second-hand pairs for our swiftly-growing kids at thrift stores, ski swaps, and yard sales.  But they need to have firm ankles.


(And hey, don’t get too hung up on figure skates vs. hockey skates for kids – most important is to get them on the ice. You can refine things as they get better.)


Also critical: Make sure your skates are sharpened so you can have control as you cruise on the ice.  Especially as a beginner you need this control.  This should only cost $5-10.


Put Your Ice Skates On Right


Secondly, you need to put your skates on right to get the most out of them.  Lace them up tightly all the way up to the very last hole.  You can even wrap the laces an extra time around your shin, crossing them in the back and tying in the front to give you extra support. 


This support is critical so that your ankle can stay firmly in the walking position.  If you don’t have the ankle support, it’s like standing on two pieces of thin steel.  Your ankles will roll over.


Hint: If you have thin ankles making it hard to get the right ankle support, cut the bottom off an old pair of socks, pull them on over your socks and double them over just above the ankle to give a little extra bulk and stability.



Let’s Skate!


Now first let’s get to know your skates:


When we talk about edges, we’re talking about the edges that run the length of your blade.  Your skates have two edges – the inside and the outside edge.  The inside edge is the edge that faces between your feet.  The outside edge faces outwards. 


For stability you need to focus on the inside edges. 


Okay, let’s go:


  1. Stand up in a centered position, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. 
  2. Place a little more weight on the right leg, tilting your foot ever so slightly to put the pressure more on the inside blade. 
  3. Straighten up while pushing off with your right foot.  It’s critical that you focus on using the inside edge against the ice as you push or else your skate will kick out from under you. 
  4. Glide. 
  5. Bring your foot back to center, shoulder width apart.  
  6. Repeat with left foot. 


Don’t rush to bring the foot back to push off.  Try to enjoy the glide.  Make each movement of each leg distinctive. If you do hurry to the next foot, you’ll end up doing a choppy sort of walk. Not gliding.


Don’t try a big push either – make it small and manageable as you’re working on your balance.


Stay close to a wall or someone else (preferably someone more stable on skates or in street shoes) so if you feel a little unstable you can grab on to them.


If you feel like you are losing control.  Don’t panic.  The worst thing is to resist the fall.  Just sit down and laugh.  Resist and you’ll be crying.


Make sure you stay in a crouched position, knees bent slightly, leaning forward a little.  This gives you more stability so you’re able to adjust easily.  If you stand up, you become more unstable. Your knees act like a shock absorber that will help you from tumbling over.


Now For A Turn or Two


Once you’re feeling comfortable, you now have to turn.


  1. To turn to your left, look in the direction you want to turn.
  2. Take your right hand, arm extended and point over to your left.  Just by moving your hand, you move your waist and shoulders.   And when you turn your waist and shoulders – you’ll find your body will turn in that direction, too. 
  3. Once you start to turn, shift your weight onto the left leg. 
  4. Lift up your right leg and step in front of your left leg, crossing over slightly.  Place it just about directly in front of the left foot.  
  5. And then pick up the left leg and return it to the side, parallel with the right foot.  Now you’re back to the starting position.


As you get better, you can repeat this move with several larger crossovers for sharper, longer turns.


Repeat the same thing for turning to your right.  Key is to look in the direction you’re turning and move your arm in that direction to get your whole upper body turning.


The Dreaded Stop


If you’re wearing figure skates, it’s a little easier.  Figure skates have a set of teeth in the front of the blade.  You can simply balance on one leg and tip your other foot, toe to the ice, behind you.  You’ll be dragging the teeth on the front of your blade gently on the ice and that will bring you to a stop.


If you’re on hockey skates, it’s a little more technical.  For now, we’ll focus on the C-turn . . .


  1. Stay in the low crouched position, your legs are parallel.
  2. Turn your shoulders to your left and your skates will start turning, making a C-turn.  Make sure you stand with your weight balanced in the center of the skates, not on the heels or on the front. 
  3. And then as you come around from one end of the C to the other end of the C, you’ll notice your skates will shave some ice.  And that will bring you to a stop.


This is definitely the trickiest and takes some practice so don’t be discouraged. Try it several times. 


Also make it a big C not a small C.  It gives you time to keep your balance and keep up with your skates.


Most importantly for learning how to stop – don’t try these stops when you’re speeding and need them desperately.  Learn them when you’re going slowly.  And get them solid before you speed it up.


Hints for Getting The Whole Family On Skates


If you’re a beginner, you may want to stay in boots as you’re kids are learning, just so you can be the stable one.  Practice separately.  You can take turns as parents – being the stable one and practicing your own technique.  Once they get more stable and more confident, you can venture on the ice together.

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