by Jassen Bowman

Having been raised in the era of figure skating superstars like Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, and Todd Eldridge, I have been fascinated by this beautiful display of athletic prowess for nearly two decades. But, like many things in life, there comes a point where the fascination slips into a desire to do something more than just sit on the couch and watch these happenings on the moving picture box.

Being 30 years old and 50 pounds overweight, part of my brain was telling myself I was absolutely, positively nuts to even be thinking about doing this. Even that first time I stepped onto the ice, I was still telling myself that I was about to be involved in a major medical emergency involving multiple broken bones. Three months later, I am not only injury free, but actually making substantial progress.

So, how does one go about learning how to skate? Like anything else, you have to do your homework. It all begins with identifying a facility in your area that even has a sheet of ice. Most major metropolitan areas of the United States, Canada, and Europe have ice facilities of one form or another. Some ice rinks consist only of frozen lakes, while others offer multiple ice rinks within one large building, complete with locker rooms, concession stands, skate rental, and more. Finding a facility near you begins with a simple Google search or a trip through the phone book.

After identifying an appropriate facility, you must then actually contact the ice rink and inquire as to the availability of group classes or private instruction. Most ice rinks offer public skate sessions during which you can obtain one-on-one instruction from a member of the site staff. Many facilities in America also participate in either the U.S. Figure Skating Association or the Ice Skating Institute basic skating skills programs, which provide a structured course of instruction in either a group format or on an individual basis.

Most people will start with group lessons. The advantage of joining a class is that there is an organized curriculum to the entire process of learning how to ice skate, along with being with a group of people of your own skill level. The cost for group lessons is also significantly less than private instruction. It is common for classes to meet twice per week for about four to six weeks. These types of classes vary in cost depending on where you’re geographically located, but in the United States expect to pay between $60 and $100 for such a class. In addition, you will also likely have to rent skates from the facility you are taking lessons at. However, skate rental is generally very inexpensive, at only a few dollars per session.

If you’re looking to test the waters before jumping into a class, or simply desire the undivided attention of an instructor, then private lessons are a worthwhile option to consider. Meeting once or twice with a private instructor is a great way to get started, especially to help you determine whether or not ice skating is something that you will really enjoy and want to stick with as a hobby. Following private instruction with group classes can give you a head start on learning how to ice skate, especially if you take a private lesson on occasion during the course of being in a class. Private instruction is definitely more costly, but pays for itself in terms of the progress that you can make in your skating skills compared to a group environment. Expect to pay anywhere from $45 to $100 per hour for private instruction, with most lessons lasting about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your goals and pace.

Personally, my intention was to meet twice, and only twice, with a private instructor, and then maybe take a class, with the thought that doing that much would get the desire to skate out of my system. My primary interest in learning to skate was to have a wee bit of a clue about what it’s like to be on the ice, since I had already made the decision that the only way I could ever actively participate in the sport of figure skating was to be a judge. However, after those two private lessons, I was hooked on skating itself, and now my weekly lessons are a line item in my personal budget.

Ice skating is an addictive form of recreation. Learning to ice skate will provide you with a great sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment. Whether your interest is purely recreational in nature, or you have an interest in any of the related disciplines such as hockey, ice dancing, or figure skating, ice skating will provide you with a sense of pure elation, and will always provide you with additional challenges should you wish to explore them.

In my next article, I will offer insight into selecting an instructor for private coaching. This relationship is such an important one that it deserves careful consideration. I consider myself extremely fortunate that the “next available instructor” to whom I was assigned is such a talented coach and a good personality fit. However, one should not rely on blind luck or good fortune alone when picking an instructor, so be looking for that article coming soon.

Jassen Bowman is a tax consultant by profession, helping taxpayers obtain the tax relief to which they are legally entitled. Outside of work, his lifelong interest in the sport of figure skating has recently blossomed into an intense drive to learn to ice skate He can be found practicing three or four times per week at his local ice centre.

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