© Lisa Shara, Published in North State Parent, December 2013
There’s nothing quite like the experience of ice skating to cultivate smiles. Whether gliding on ice yourself or merely observing the experience of others, the laughter and spirit of skating is contagious.
Ice skating is all-ages fun, and is truly a community experience, whether it’s happening on a frozen pond or lake, or at an ice rink. In the North State, frozen lakes coupled with suitable skating conditions are rare (but oh-so-fun when it’s possible!), making local ice rinks all the more special.
At the Siskiyou Ice Rink in Mt. Shasta, I’ve skated with toddlers and senior citizens, and watched teens perform what seem like Olympic-style turns and leaps. This year, the Paradise Ice Rink opens for the first time, providing a winter-fun opportunity in Butte County. These rinks and others have been created to serve the community, and rely on public participation.
If you’ve never skated, haven’t skated since “back in the day,” or are bringing along friends and family who are new to the sport, these tips may help ensure a memorable experience on the ice:
Dress appropriately. There are essentials that go a long way in insuring a good time on the ice: Wear LONG socks – they don’t just keep your feet warm, they also provide cushioning needed around your ankles and at the top of your skates. Wear gloves – keeping your hands warm is not only key for your comfort, they also really help if you fall on the ice. Keep your ears warm – bring a warm hat, ear warmers, or a headband that covers your ears; some headbands are designed to provide cushioning that protects your head if you fall. Dress in layers – wear layers you can move in, and that are easy to take off as you warm up.
- Tie skates correctly. Whether skating in rental skates or your own, make sure your skates are tied tight enough to help provide needed support for your ankles, but are not tied so tight that your feet go numb. You should be able to slip a finger between the boot and your ankle.
- Warm up your muscles slowly. Once you’ve covered the basics of dressing warmly, also give your muscles a chance to warm up with slow bending movements and gentle stretches. Cold muscle fibers can tear, so take it easy while taking your first laps around the rink. You’ll likely get warmed up and comfortable quickly.
- Encourage young skaters. Some rinks offer supportive devices for young skaters learning to navigate on the ice, such as buckets that can be stacked to the right height and pushed around the ice. “Marching” on ice with arms out like a tightrope walker for balance helps teach young skaters to keep their feet under them. If needed, you can hold your child’s hand, but the goal is to march without assistance. Gliding on two feet would be a next step. Learning how to fall is important; on the butt is the best, with arms pulled in.
- Be safe. Make sure young skaters wear helmets or at the least cushy hats. The rink may provide helmets, but you can bring a bike a helmet from home too. Take breaks: for yourself, but also make sure your young skaters take frequent breaks to rest their feet – take off their skates and warm their feet up – skating is a lot more fun when feet are comfortable.
- Take advantage of skating lessons. Skating rinks typically offer inexpensive group skating lessons, which can be a lot of fun for all ages (bring friends) and are designed to teach new skaters the basics and help more experienced skaters master skills and improve techniques. In addition to skating lessons, the Siskiyou Ice Rink offers 15-minute Skate Safety classes for those who just want to have fun on the ice, but can use some basic tips.
- Keep your head up. As with most sports, it’s best to focus on where you want to go, not on your feet or on the ground. Looking in the direction you want to go helps you get there. Keeping your head up also helps maintain good body alignment for skating. Bonus: Keeping your head up lets you see what’s in your path, which is your best chance for avoiding collisions.
Keep your knees bent and avoid leaning backwards when skating. Leaning back can land you on your backside. Instead, keep your knees bent and your weight slightly forward over your skates. Holding your arms out and open to the sides will help you maintain balance.
- Learn to stop. Being able to slow down and to stop on the ice is pretty essential! A basic stopping method is to bend your knees, then turn the toes of each foot inward while pushing down on your heels to slow down and stop.
- Go with the flow. Rink skaters are instructed to skate either clockwise or counterclockwise at any given time – be sure you are aware which direction skaters are going in before you step onto the ice, so you can join in smoothly. Listen for instructions to “switch directions” while you are skating. Bonus: Though it may seem awkward, skating in both directions promotes balanced muscle development.
- The safe zone. If you want to practice skills like turning or skating backwards, you can move into the zone in the center of the rink, or practice close to the wall at either end of the rink. Keep a lookout for others coming your way.
- Get your own skates. Rental skates are a good option for your first times out on the ice, but if you fall in love with skating, a pair of quality skates is a worthwhile investment that will insure a good fit and proper support for your feet. Bonus: Bringing your own skates will save you time spent in line waiting for rental skates.
Skating is the type of sport that brings satisfaction because it’s ultimately about mastering levels of skill development and improving self. Whether purely for fun or to achieve fitness goals, whether figure skating or playing hockey, take advantage of area opportunities to ice skate this coming season. And enjoy the special holiday events most rinks offer. Skating is great family fun and could become a healthy life-long activity for you and yours.
AREA ICE RINKS
- Paradise Ice Rink, located at Terry Ashe Recreation Center, 6626 Skyway, Paradise. Open Nov. 16 through Jan. 12. Info: www.paradiseprpd.com/IceRink.html; (530) 872-6972.
- Siskiyou Ice rink, located at Shastice Park, 800 Rockfellow Dr., Mt. Shasta. Open Nov. 23 through Feb. 2. Info: www.siskiyourink.org; (530) 926-1715.
- Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink, located across from Lithia Park, 95 Winburn Way. Open Nov. 23, through Feb. 23. Info: www.ashland.or.us/icerink; (541) 488-9189.
- Bill Collier Community Ice Arena, located at 5075 Fox Sparrow Dr., Klamath Falls. Open Nov. through March (call for exact dates). Info: www.klamathicesports.org; (541) 850-5758.
- The RRRink, located at 1349 Center Dr., Medford. Open year-round. Info: www.therrrink.com; (541) 770-1177. [/sws_blue_box]