How to Ice Skate: 13 Tips to Make It Way More Fun
Whether you're the one dragging friends to the ice rink each holiday season, or you're the one getting dragged, learning the basics of how to ice skate can make the experience much more enjoyable.
You're going to fall, but it's not that big of a deal if you know how to fall correctly. With practice, you'll feel more secure on the ice and won't spend so much time on the floor or hugging the wall. Even if you only go once a year, these tips can help give your next ice skating experience "Ice Princess" vibes instead of ones from "The Three Stooges."
The right ice skating attire depends on the type of rink you plan on visiting. If you're visiting an outdoor rink where it'll be below freezing, bundle up. Doubling up on leggings is a good idea for ladies or wearing long underwear under your pants for men. Typical outerwear should be fine, but scarves can get in the way. Go with a hat or earmuffs, gloves and warm layers.
For indoor skating, bundling up isn't as important. Pants with some give to them, a long-sleeved tee, a sweatshirt and gloves are plenty. Even if it's chilly at first, you'll warm up when you start moving.
As for socks, go against your instinct, and pick a thin pair, preferably one that comes up to the mid-calf or higher. Thinner socks make it easier to pick the right-size skates, and you'll have more control overall if your feet aren't sliding around in fluffy slipper socks.
Choose the Right-Size Ice Skates
If you're stuck with rental skates, at least pick ones that fit correctly. If they're too small, they'll pinch your toes and make your feet fall asleep. If they're too big, you'll lose ankle support and will be more likely to injure yourself.
The sizing varies from rink to rink, but it's often necessary to go down a size or two from your street-shoe size. For example, I wear a size six shoe and a size four in rental skates.
At most rinks, guests will have a choice between figure skates and hockey skates. Figure skates have a longer blade with a toe pick at the front, while hockey skates have no toe pick and a shorter blade. If you intend on pursuing one sport or the other, the choice is a no-brainer. If you just want to skate a few laps, try each kind and see which you feel more comfortable wearing. Many people find the longer blade and added grip of the toe pick in figure skates to feel more secure.
Lace Them Up Correctly
Lacing up ice skates isn't quite the same as lacing up sneakers. Ideally, they should fit like a glove, tied snuggly, but not so tightly that you can't move your toes or bend your knees. Rental skates are usually made of cheap, synthetic materials, so tying them tightly may make it harder to bend. Try to find a happy medium in which you have some ankle support without losing mobility of your ankles and knees.
The same goes for rental skates that use buckles instead of laces. Snug, but not painful, is a good rule of thumb. If you have to choose between too tight and too loose, too tight is the lesser evil.
Consider Picking Up Your Own Ice Skating Gear
I've been skating every week for years. I tried on a pair of rental skates just for laughs, and I was horrified. In my figure skates, stepping on the ice feels easier than walking. In rentals, I felt like a baby deer in headlights. They were so dull, I kept sliding into the splits. Learning to skate always comes with some slipping and sliding, but skating in uncomfortable, poorly fitting rental skates makes it feel much, much scarier than it has to be.
Figure skates that are supportive enough for jumping and other, more advanced moves are expensive, but a pair of recreational skates will only set you back about $100 to $150.
The Jackson Classic SoftSkate is a decent option for a recreational skate. The Jackson Ultima Freestyle Fusion skate is a better choice if you plan on taking classes. Basic hockey skates are similar in price, so consider your preferences and goals before investing. If you do buy your own skates, don't forget to pick up a pair of soakers. These microfiber covers absorb moisture from the blade so that they don't rust. Might as well pick up an ice skate bag to tote them to the rink while you're at it.
Understand How Ice Skates Work
Ice skating seems a lot more intimidating when you don't know how it works. Ice is slippery, isn't it? Adding a blade thinner than a cracker seems like it would make matters infinitely worse, but it actually makes it so much easier.
Ice skate blades look flat, but they're not. They have two edges, which serve to grip the ice and give the skater traction and glide at the same time. The ice actually has a thin layer of water on top, which is what makes ice nearly frictionless. Edges allow you to dig in to the ice to change directions, accelerate or stop.
After a little practice, skating feels infinitely easier than walking on ice in street shoes, and it keeps getting easier the longer you do it.
If You Go Ice Skating as a Family, Don’t Pick Kids Up
As tempting as it is to pick up your tearful toddler after a fall, it's a terrible idea unless you're a highly experienced skater. If you're unstable on the ice yourself, trying to pick up your child will heighten the risk of you both falling, only from higher up and without any available hands to break the fall.
Get down on the ice with them to comfort them, then teach them how to get up. If they're actually hurt, wait for a skate guard to assist instead of trying to move them on your own.
Start With Baby Steps
Once you have your skates on, you're ready to give skating a try. To start, hold onto the edge of the wall and step onto the ice. Imagine keeping your body stacked, with your knees over your toes, your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your hips. If you step far out in front of you, it'll be harder to keep your balance.
Pay attention to where your weight is. If you go back on your heels, you'll fall over. If you lean too far forward, you'll hit the toe picks if you're wearing figure skates or just fall forward if you're in hockey skates. Try to keep your weight closer to the middle of the blade, or slightly forward.
To start moving forward, don't think about pushing off at first. Instead, put your arms out in front of you in a V, bend your knees and take small, controlled stomps forward. When you pick up a little speed, you can try gliding on two feet after every few steps.
Bend Your Knees and Look Up
You know how we said to bend your knees? If you think you're bending them, you probably need to bend them even more. Bending your knees both lowers your center of gravity and gives you more control. If it's exhausting, you're doing it right.
Your head is also really heavy. If you look down, that's where you'll end up. Resist the urge to stare at your feet, and look where you want to go instead.
Ice Skating Is More Fun When You Learn How to Fall Safely and Get Back Up
This couple is cute, but helping someone up like this is the last thing you want to do. Instead, have them sit up and roll onto their hands and knees. Then, have them bring one knee up like they're about to propose. They can then use both hands to press down on that knee to help them stand up.
To make falls less painful, when you feel like you're about to lose your balance, put your hands on your knees and bend them. Even if you still fall, you'll be closer to the ice, and your fall will be more controlled. After years of skating, I still fall during every practice. Most of the time, it doesn't hurt at all, thanks to learning how to fall correctly.
Try Out Your Swizzling Skills
When you feel more secure, try swizzles on for size. Swizzles are one of the first skills taught in basic Learn to Skate classes, and they help beginners get the feeling of using their edges to propel themselves forward, rather than walking.
To start, stand up straight with your arms out in a V. Turn your toes out, bend your knees and push. Your skates should move apart. Then, turn them in and bring them back together. Each swizzle should form the shape of a lemon on the ice, with your skates returning to parallel after each one. In this picture, you can tell she isn't bending her knees enough, causing her to pitch forward. Don't do that!
Once You're Getting More Speed, Figure Out How to Stop
The first stop every skater learns is a snowplow stop. While gliding forward, bend your knees and begin turning your toes inward, while pushing your skates outward. To practice the feeling of scraping the ice, hold onto the wall and practice pushing your feet outwards.
When you build up more confidence, you can try angling your body and stopping with one foot.
Know Your Limits, Look Where You’re Going, and Follow the Rules
We can't emphasize this enough: Don't be the group the underpaid teenage skate guard hates. You know the ones we mean. Kids tearing down the ice (even though they don't know how to stop without crashing into the wall or other people) are a danger to themselves and others.
The same goes for people who don't follow the rules, like those who refuse to follow the flow of traffic or who skate through the middle of the circle in the center that's supposed to be for spinning. Treat skating like driving: Knowing where everyone else is is important to avoid an accident. Don't play tag or have a snowball fight, either. Even if you're a good enough skater to do that safely, weaving in and out of inexperienced skaters is a surefire way to knock someone over.
The whole point of ice skating is to have fun. Once you get past the awkward first steps and start feeling more secure, gliding on ice is as close as you can get to flying. There's also something magical about it that doesn't disappear no matter how old you get. Strap on your skates, then head home for a cozy movie marathon and a steaming cup of hot cocoa.
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