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Recreational Figure Skating FAQ - Questions and Answers


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Last-modified: Feb 27 2007
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                        Recreational Figure Skating FAQ

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1. Questions and answers

  1.1 Should I buy skates or rent them?

   If rental skates are available the best path is to go with rentals for at
   least a half-dozen sessions until you are reasonably sure that you are
   making  progress and intend to keep skating long enough to justify the
   investment. The only contrary objection would be if the rental skates at
   your rink are in really horrible shape, in which case you may want to check
   if the shop or any rink/club bulletin board has used skates for sale.

  1.2 Should I buy figure skates or hockey skates?

   While the obvious response is "it depends on what kind of skating you want
   to do", in reality the beginner has to learn a set of basic skating skills
   starting with balance, posture, stroking and stopping, and these can be
   learned on either type. So, which type of skate is better to start with, and
   how much the two types of skating really differ?

   The toe picks on figure skates need *getting used to*. They are *not* used
   for very basic skating (stroking, cross-cuts) but are required for proper
   execution of many jumps and spins. You get more of the fundamentals when you
   learn  on  figure  skates  (perhaps because the lessons concentrate on
   technique).

   The blade of the figure skate is wider than hockey skates. The profile or
   rocker is intended to have the right radius of curvature along the blade for
   moves where you are shifting your weight to the front or back of the skates.
   There are different styles of blades for dance, figures and free-style.
   Hockey blades are short, narrow, with a deep grind and highly rockered,
   especially at the ends and are designed for maximum agility . Blades for
   goalies aren't as rockered and have a shallower grind.

   Hockey skaters tend to skate more hunched over and are much more concerned
   with quick stops, starts, and changes of direction. Figure skaters tend to
   skate more upright, and have more fluid movements. And they don't spit on
   the ice ;-)

   Figure skates generally cost more than hockey skates. The boots are usually
   made of leather and require maintenance. Figure skates have heels (about 1
   1/2 inches).

   Figure skates should not be used for playing hockey. The blades protrude
   more and can cause injury. Hockey skates can be used for figure skating
   (even for jumping) but your progress will be limited.

    1.2.1 Will figure skates give me enough ankle support?

   A good quality pair of figure skates provides *at least* as much ankle
   support as any pair of hockey skates. You can get figure boots that feel
   like  steel, if you are so inclined. However, you must select boots of
   adequate quality and correct fit so that the boots help your ankles stay
   erect as you condition your ankles and balance to control the skates. Most
   cases of "weak ankles" are due either to cheap department store skates, or
   to floppy, worn-out or oversized rental skates.

  1.3 Why are there different kinds of blades for figure skates?

   There are four kinds of figure blades:
    1. Freestyle, which have large toepicks for jumps, deep grind so you won't
       skid and less rocker for more acceleration.
    2. Patch or figure, which have the shallowest grind for maximum glide and
       tiny toepicks (only used for pushes and stops). Since the removal of
       figures  from eligible competitions, most blade manufacturers have
       discontinued  figure  blades. It is possible to transform a normal
       freestyle blade into a patch blade by regrinding the hollow to about 1''
       radius and shaving off the lowest toepick.
    3. Dance, which are shorter blades so you won't step on your own or your
       partner's blades. Compared to freestyle, they have smaller toepicks, and
       more rocker to make turns easier. They are also narrower and a deeper
       grind, to allow deeper edges.
    4. Precision or synchronized skating blades, which are also shorter than
       freestyle blades.

  1.4 How often do I need to sharpen my skates?

   If you're skating only a few times a week, every six weeks to two months is
   probably frequent enough. You should get in the habit inspecting them each
   time you dry off the blades, and when there are dulled or there are a lot of
   nicks,  get them sharpened. The usual test for sharpness is dragging a
   fingernail lightly over the edge - if it planes off a little sliver, they're
   sharp, if it just slides, then they're dull. It is not unusual for blades to
   wear unevenly. For example, the inside edges may wear more quickly than the
   outside edges or the fronts more quickly than the tails.

   Of course, the real test is in the skating, and you'll gradually learn the
   clues that point to a dull blade. You instructor can also help, and if the
   skate sharpener is competent, he or she will do the minimum necessary to
   your skates, perhaps just a quick pass with a hand stone to knock off a
   nick.

   Remember that every time you get your blades sharpened you shorten the life
   of the blades and there's a bit of a re-adjustment for you to get used to
   the new feel. It's almost always "better", but you get used to when the
   blade will slide and when it will grab over the period as it gets dull, and
   you may be caught off guard by the new behavior.

  1.5 Are hand-held sharpeners useful?

   Although opinions vary, the consensus is that hand-held sharpeners cannot
   replace a good machine sharpening. You cannot change the hollow radius
   easily and you should not use them on tapered blades. Having said that, they
   can be very useful to maintain a sharp edge or get rid of small nicks,
   particularly if you don't get the chance to get a proper sharpening as often
   as you would want because of lack of reliable competent sharpeners in your
   area.

  1.6 What is skating leg, free leg, outside edge, inside edge, LFO, RBI, etc.?

   At various times throughout these pages, you will notice references to the
   skating foot, skating leg, free foot, etc. When you are skating on one foot,
   this is your skating foot. The foot which is off the ice is your free foot.
   The entire side of the body on the side of the free foot is the free side,
   hence the terms, free leg, free arm, etc. Similar terms apply to the skating
   side.

   You will also note references to LFO, RBI, etc. This is a short-hand term
   referring to which edge you are using. The bottom of a skate blade has two
   edges, with a concave space between them. The edge closest to the other
   skate is your inside edge. The first letter indicates the skating foot, left
   or right. The second letter indicates whether you are skating forward or
   backward. The third letter indicates whether you are on an inside or outside
   edge.

  1.7 Why do I skate mostly on my inside edges?

   Chances are it's just a matter of confidence. You might be on your inside
   edges because you have your feet spread apart, or because your skates don't
   fit properly or are worn out.. When you're on an inside edge, you've got
   your other foot to catch you. On an outside edge, there's nothing between
   you and the ice but thin air.

   Try one foot glides, straight at first and then on shallow outside edges
   until you can securely glide for extended distances. Do them near the boards
   at first if it helps to know there's something to grab onto if needed. Like
   riding a bicycle, going faster will help you balance. Be sure to practice on
   both feet equally.

   Remember to keep your weight towards the rear of the blade, since letting
   your weight shift forward puts you on the sharply curved,less stable part of
   the blade profile.

   Have the skates sharpened if necessary. You can't hold an edge on dull
   skates. And have the skates checked to make sure the blades are mounted
   properly.

  1.8 Why do most skaters spin and jump counterclockwise?

   Most  people have a more or less strong innate preference for rotating
   counterclockwise. This is because a counterclockwise rotation tends to be
   controlled predominantly by the right shoulder, which is the dominant one
   for a majority of people (although it is not true that all right handed
   people prefer to turn counterclockwise!). In addition, most rinks impose a
   counterclockwise direction of travel in public sessions, which may reverse
   an initial predilection for turning in the other direction.

   Some beginner skaters seem not to have a strong natural direction preference
   and are able to master some of the basic jumps in both directions, but their
   instructors push them to settle on one side or the other before moving on to
   more advanced skills. Part of the reason for this is that spins are used as
   stepping  stones  to  jumps.  The back spin in particular is used as a
   preliminary to the loop, which is in turn used as a preliminary to the Axel.
   Ultimately, rotation for all jumps is the same and it all comes from the
   backspin.

   Although there is no reason why most skaters should not be able to learn
   spins and jumps in both directions, in the practice you don't get sufficient
   credit from the judges to make it worth the trouble of learning to do them
   in the weaker direction. The only skating program where reverse jumps are
   eventually required is ISI.

    1.8.1 Is there an easy way to tell what my "natural" spinning direction is?

   The best way to find out which way you prefer to rotate is to try a spin or
   a simple jump in both directions. You will probably be able to predict your
   natural preference simply by noting in what direction you can perform turns
   most easily.

   If you are not sure what your preference is, picking your stronger direction
   can be trickier. Gus Lussi (a famous skating coach from a few decades ago)
   recommended choosing the jumping direction according to your best side on
   back outside edges (because that will be your landing edge).If your right BO
   edge is stronger, jump and spin counterclockwise.

   You can try to determine your best side by catching a flying object or
   hitting a spot with a ball, (try both throwing and kicking the ball, as
   spins and jumps require coordination from both the upper and lower body).
   Try with both hands/legs. If you consistently get better results with your
   right side, rotate counterclockwise.

   There are also practical issues to consider: For example, it can take a lot
   of nerve to set up jumps in crowded sessions if you are a clockwise jumper
   (because you will be going against the traffic) and there is probably an
   increased risk of colliding with other skaters. That can be a good reason to
   choose the counterclockwise direction if you don't have a strong preference.

   Some people find it easier to spin in one direction and jump in the other.
   In these cases it is often advised to reverse the spin direction to match
   the jumping direction, perhaps because it is easier to learn spins than most
   jumps in the weak direction -or perhaps because it worked for John Curry :-)
   !

  1.9 Why can I do X on my right leg but not my left?

   Almost every skater has a strong side and a weak side. It may be due to a
   difference in muscle strength or related to the preference to do moves in
   one direction. Unfortunately, the tendency is to do the move on the leg or
   direction that works and ignore the mirror image move on the other leg,
   without even realizing it. It is good practice to consciously do at least as
   much practice on the weak side as the strong side. So for example, if you're
   working on inside three-turns, alternate between the two feet.

  1.10 What's the difference between a crossover and a progressive?

   The difference between these strokes lies in where the new skating foot sits
   on the ice at the beginning of the power stroke. In a normal stroke, the new
   skating foot is placed alongside the skating foot and the push is outward
   and slightly to the rear.

   For the cross-over (aka cross stroke, cross pull), the new skating foot is
   passed across the front of or over the skating foot and placed inside and
   slightly  ahead  of  the  skating foot. The push has a strong sideways
   component, as if you were "climbing stairs sideways".

   In the progressive stroke the new skating foot is placed on the ice along
   side the skating foot and then slides to a position forward of the skating
   foot prior to the power stroke. While push is still primarily outward, it
   has a more profound front to back component. Note that new skating foot is
   *not* simply placed on the ice ahead of the skating foot, which produces an
   uneven "walking" motion.

   A progressive run (sometimes just called a run) is a merely sequence of
   progressive strokes along the same lobe. The difficulty is in making them
   clean power strokes in time with the music, and maintaining the edge and
   aim. Dance students who haven't mastered the progressive stroke tend to
   interpret runs as a sequence of short choppy strokes or a sort of shuffle
   sequence.

   Both the cross-over and progressive strokes can be executed in either the
   forward or backward direction. They are more powerful than the standard
   stroke because of the extended length of the power stroke and degree to
   which  that  stroke can work against the weight of the body. Backwards
   crossovers are extremely powerful and are often seen in freestyle to regain
   momentum between moves, while progressive runs are used in dance to add
   power without disrupting the flow of the edges.

  1.11 Turns. What's a counter, rocker, bracket, 3-turn?

   Three turn
   A 3-turn is a change of direction (eg. forward to backward) while skating on
   an arc of a circle (lobe). It is done without a change of skating foot and
   always involves a change of edge (eg. forward outside to backward inside
   edge). As it changes direction, the skate traces the digit "3" in the ice;
   hence the term. The center of the 3 always points to the center of the
   circle. There are eight 3-turns, depending on which edge you enter with,
   which is your skating foot, and whether you enter the turn going forward or
   backward. The turns are named according to their entry position, hence a LFO
   3-turn is a turn done on the Left foot starting from a Forward direction on
   an Outside edge.

   Bracket
   A turn made on one foot from forward to backward (or backward to forward)
   from one edge of one character to an edge of another character, i.e. outside
   to inside or inside to outside, where the body rotation is counter to the
   natural direction of progress causing the cusp to print outward from the
   center of the lobe curvature. The edge before and after the turn is on the
   same lobe.

   Rocker
   A turn made on one foot from a forward to backward (or backward to forward)
   edge maintaining the same character, i.e. inside to inside or outside to
   outside, where the body rotation is in the same direction as the natural
   progress causing the cusp to point toward the center of curvature of the
   first lobe. The edge before and after the turn is on different lobes having
   opposite directional curvature.

   Counter
   A turn made on one foot from a forward to backward (or backward to forward)
   edge maintaining the same character, i.e. inside to inside or outside to
   outside, where the body rotation is counter to the natural direction of
   progress causing the cusp to point outward from the center of curvature of
   the first lobe. The edge before and after the turn is on different lobes
   having opposite directional curvature.

   Here is some ASCII art to help:

   A bracket is also on the same circle, but the pointy part of the turn is on
   the outside of the circle, like a bracket }

            ___/\___                  ___  ___
           /        \        vs      /   \/   \
          /          \              /          \
            bracket                   3-turn

   Counters and rockers, on the other hand, are at a change of circles. In both
   cases, although you change direction, you do not change edge. (assume you
   are traveling up the page...)

                   2.                          2.
                  /                           /
         ___/\___/                   ___  ___/
        /                           /   \/
       /                           /
      1.                          1.

         counter                     rocker

  1.12 Turns. What's a mohawk, choctaw?

   The mohawk and choctaw involve a step from one foot to the other during the
   execution of the turn.

   Mohawk
   A Mohawk is a change of direction (eg. forward to backward) while skating on
   an arc of a circle. It includes a change of skating foot and retains the
   same character of edge (eg. forward inside to backwards inside). The edges
   before and after the turn are on the same lobe. Because of the use of both
   feet, there are only 4 Mohawk turns, depending on whether the entry edges is
   inside  or  outside  and forward or backwards. There are however, many
   variations  on the execution of the Mohawk turn within this analytical
   constraint.

   Choctaw
   A Choctaw is a change of direction (eg. forward to backward) that involves
   both a change of skating foot and a change in the character of the edge (eg.
   backward outside to forward inside). The edges before and after the turn are
   on different lobes having opposite directional curvature. Like the Mohawk,
   there are only 4 Choctaw turns.

  1.13 Step sequences: What are waltz threes, waltz eights and power threes?

   Some  turn  and edges sequences (sometimes derived from dances) are so
   frequently used in steps sequences, as exercises or in standard tests that
   they are usually referred to by specific names. Such step sequences include
   waltz threes, waltz eights and power threes:

   Waltz three
          The skater starts on a left forward outside edge and does a three
          turn followed by a push onto the right back outside edge. The move is
          supposed to be done to a waltz 3/4 beat, therefore the name: Step and
          hold the LFO edge (1,2,3); turn and hold the exit LBI edge (4,5,6);
          push onto the RBO edge (7,8,9-10,11,12). It is possible to chain
          several waltz threes on a big circle.

   Waltz eight
          The waltz eight is a figure variation of the waltz three. It is
          skated on two circles (i.e. an "8" figure). The skater does a waltz
          three as described above over two thirds of the first circle, then
          steps forwards and rides the left forward outside edge to the center
          of the figure (the point where the two circles in the "8" join).
          After that, he/she steps on the right forward outside edge, does a
          waltz three turning in the other direction and goes back to the
          center on the right forward outside edge.

   Power threes
          These are step sequences involving three turns done at speed and a
          quick, even cadence. As the name implies, the emphasis is to generate
          power on each step of the sequence. The forward power threes start on
          a forward outside edge (for example, LFO). After a left forward
          outside three, the skater pushes off the left back inside edge and
          shifts the weight towards the right back inside edge. He/she then
          shifts the weight back to the left foot and draws the right foot
          across in front of the left foot (backwards crosscut). During both
          weight transfers and the crosscut, both feet remain on the ice. Then,
          the  skater  steps  forwards  to  a  left forwards outside edge
          (technically, the step forwards is a RBI choctaw) and repeating the
          sequence, progressing along a straight line.
          The back power threes, on the other hand, are done in a circle: the
          skater stars with a right forward inside mohawk, pushes to a right
          backwards outside edge, does a back outside three - ending in a
          forward inside edge, and starts all over again.

  1.14 Are spin trainers any good?

   Skating folks have a wide variety of opinions. On the negative side, it is
   indeed possible to do something like a spin on it, although it doesn't
   really feel the same as doing it on the ice. The center of this spinner is
   in the center of your foot. Also it doesn't replicate the normal approach to
   the spin -- if you step onto it with any linear momentum, you'll go flying
   off again. DON'T consider using it anywhere near anything you can fall onto
   -- you will literally get tossed off the spinner if you balance wrong.

   On the positive side, spinning takes a lot of practice. One lesson with even
   the best coach will not turn you into a good spinner. And the skate spinner
   costs about as much as one lesson (including ice time). Thus, if there is a
   realistic way of practicing spinning without having to pay the hourly charge
   of ice time, it is a Good Thing.

   The plastic spinner is one piece. The "rocker" bottom is pretty good, but
   DON'T try it on a hardwood floor - if your weight shifts to the back of the
   spinner for even an instant, the spinner will fly forwards and you'll fly
   downwards! The spinner also works on carpet but wont spin as fast. It can be
   a little hard to balance on, so if you're a beginning spinner, it probably
   won't help you too much.

   The metal spinner is two pieces - one steel plate sits on the ground, and
   the other plate (steel but with rubber tread for traction - better than
   slippery plastic!) which spins on top.

   Here are a few exercises you can do on a spinner:

   For Jump Landings: Stand on the spinner with landing leg, do NOT move the
   spinner, hold landing position to count of 5, keep in mind position, weight
   placement. KNEE OVER TOE.

   Salchows: use the spinner for your 3 turn, jump off the spinner and rotate,
   land as you normally would in a jump.

   Loops: get into a loop position on the spinner, give yourself some spin from
   the spinner, then jump off, rotate in the air and land.

   SPINS: point of these exercises is not to increase your revolutions to 7 or
   even 10 times. It is to give you enough revolutions to help you understand
   the feeling of your weight placement, your body position.

   One Foot Spin and Scratch Spin: Very important to have your hips square,
   start the spinner and maintain this position; you need to have the free leg
   placed to the side and slightly in front of the spinning foot. Push the
   spinner and feel the position of the hips and shoulders. This one is tricky
   on the spinner, getting that first push-off position is key to getting some
   revolutions

   Backspins: are the easiest of the spins to do. Again hips should be square,
   underneath the shoulders, feet directly parallel with one another (side by
   side).  Pull into your position. This one is important to have as many
   straight, comfortable revolutions as you can. It will teach you balance,
   keeping your back straight and your free leg crossed.

  1.15 Will inline skating improve my ice skating?

   Although inline skating can be an excellent exercise for overall fitness and
   some basic skills can transfer well to the ice, more advanced figure skaters
   find  that  regular inlines are rather unsuitable to practice advanced
   freestyle maneuvers. If you are determined to do freestyle off-ice, consider
   purchasing Picskates or Triax skates. They both have a toe-stop at the front
   which makes it easier to jump. Triax skates seem to be more popular with
   former roller skaters, while Picskates, with their rockered profile, are the
   ones that most closely resemble an ice blade. Having said that, be aware
   that most things will be harder to do on Picskates than on ice and a few
   skills, like spins, are considerably harder.

  1.16 What are US Figure Skating, ISI, Skate Canada, NISA, etc?

   United States Figure Skating (former USFSA) is the organization with the
   tie-in to the International Skating Union (ISU), and the one which sponsors
   the U.S. National Championships (and all the competitions leading up to it)
   that result in the world team being picked. US Figure Skating runs a "learn
   to skate" program, schedules tests and runs competitions.

   Skate Canada (formerly known as Canadian Figure Skating Association or CFSA)
   runs programs which are roughly parallel to the US Figure Skating program.
   They start with Canskate, which is a learn-to-skate program, followed by
   Canfigureskate (basically a children's' program) and "test stream".

   Other ISU member countries have got their own National skating associations
   with similar aims as the US Figure Skating and Skate Canada and their own
   skating programs, such as DEU (Deutsche Eislauf-Union) in Germany, NISA
   (National Ice Skating Association) in UK, FFSG (Fédération Française des
   Sports de Glace) in France, etc.

   ISI  (Ice  Skating  Institute)  was  formed out of a real need felt by
   recreational skaters for a testing, instructional, and competitive structure
   that  did  not  devalue the "run of the mill" skater. It does not only
   encourages participation in skating as a recreational sport, but is also
   active in producing information and education material directed to ice rink
   owners and operators and covering all aspects of ice skating as a trade. Its
   program has been adopted by a large number of ice facilities across the USA.
   ISI also has an international branch with member rinks in 11 countries.

   The ISI freestyle test requirements are listed in Appendix 2

    1.16.1 Should I join ISI or US Figure Skating?

   Both organizations have "learn to skate" programs, and both have schedules
   of tests. Both host competitions. Skaters from either organization may skate
   in competitions of the other without penalty, but they have to abide by the
   rules of the host organization in terms of assessing skating level, and in
   terms of program content, duration, etc.

   The  more  serious competitive track skaters generally skate US Figure
   Skating. However, in recent years US Figure Skating has become increasingly
   aware that there are many valid reasons to skate other than heading for
   Worlds,  and  there  are  many  dedicated skaters to whom the test and
   competitive structure of US Figure Skating was relatively "unfriendly". This
   realization has led to the development of a test track and competitive
   outlets for adult skaters.

   Some  skaters  feel  that  ISI  competition technical programs are too
   restrictive ( content is strictly regulated according to test level and
   elements from higher levels are not allowed ). On the other hand some other
   complain that US Figure Skating competition rules encourage "sandbagging"
   (the practice of staying at a low test level in order to have a better
   chance to place well at competitions, even through the skater is capable of
   passing higher level tests).

   Sometimes the choice boils down to a matter of convenience (not all rinks or
   clubs are affiliated with both organizations). Many people belong to both.

  1.17 What are MITF?

   Moves in the Field (MITF) are the new first half of the freestyle tests of
   the US Figure Skating. In the regular test track, the skaters must pass the
   moves portion before they can take the freestyle portion. Moves can also be
   tested without taking the freestyle portion. In the adult test track, MITF
   are compulsory since September 2002.

   The development of MITF was spurred by the elimination of figures as a
   requirement for international competition, in the realization that it would
   be impossible for US Figure Skating to continue to demand figures of its
   freeskaters.  They were also an answer to complaints being voiced that
   skaters were paying all their attention to jumps and spins and the footwork
   and connecting moves in programs were getting poorer and poorer in quality.

   The moves consist of various stroking and turns done on the entire ice
   surface with emphasis on power, edge quality, quickness, and extension. Each
   move has a primary focus and a secondary focus. If these are not met, the
   test will fail. The US Figure Skating rule book is the best reference for
   standards for these moves. Tapes of moves in the field can also be purchased
   from the US Figure Skating.

  1.18 Sessions; freestyle, dance, open, public, patch; what are they?

   Freestyle session
          During freestyle sessions the only skating allowed is "freestyle".
          .... jumps, spins, footwork, Moves in the Field, spirals, etc. This
          usually means that skaters have at least begun to do some freestyle
          moves .... such as the first jumps and spins. Some rinks distinguish
          in levels allowed on particular sessions. My rink has "low test" and
          "high test" sessions, and sometimes even some "middle test" sessions.
          Division into levels is made both in the interests of safety (low
          test skaters tend to be more oblivious to traffic, less able to get
          out of the way, etc.) and the interests of convenience -- it's easier
          to gauge your moves if everyone on the ice is within a known range of
          competence. The number of skaters allowed on the ice at one time may
          differ from a low test to a high test session. At freestyle sessions
          skaters may play their program music, and while their music is on
          they have the right of way. At some rinks the person whose music is
          playing may wear a ribbon or "pinney" to help other skaters know
          whose way to stay out of.

   Dance session
          A period of time in which only ice dancing may be practiced. This
          includes isolated moves or entire patterns. When a particular dance
          is playing, those skaters doing that pattern have the right of way --
          because these are primarily compulsory dances, there may be any
          number of skaters, either singly or in pairs, doing the pattern at
          the same time.

   Open session
          A period of time in which any type of FIGURE skating (this usually
          means Freestyle or dance) may be practiced (but not hockey or speed
          skating). Again, the person whose music is playing has right of way.

   Public or Recreational session:
          A session in which freestyle, dance, hockey, or speed skating may be
          practiced -- provided you can find the space to do it -- in which the
          number of people allowed on the ice at any one time may be quite
          high. Only in very uncrowded public sessions can skaters expect to be
          able to skate their programs or their dances, and owing to the very
          different skill levels and skating types represented, they must
          expect to have to abort a pattern or program at any moment to avoid
          collision.

   Patch or Figure session
          The only skating allowed is practice on "school figures". Each skater
          is assigned a "patch" of space on the ice and may not stray outside
          its  boundaries.  Because  figures  are  no  longer required in
          competition, most rinks and clubs do not offer them any more. Skaters
          wishing to practice figures must look for uncrowded public or open
          sessions.

   In all sessions but patch sessions, skaters share the ice equally, and all
   must  watch  out  for the others. Some general rules of conduct in the
   non-public sessions (in addition to "the skater whose music it is has right
   of way") include: Better skaters need to watch out for slower skaters;
   skaters taking a lesson have right of way over skaters practicing on their
   own; skaters engaged in a pattern (dance pattern, or Moves in the Field)
   have right of way over skaters practicing isolated moves.

   All rinks have their own "cultures", so what escapes without comment in one
   place may be regarded as bizarre in another. Ask.

  1.19 I have heard that you can skate on ice because the ice melts under the
  blade pressure. Is this true?

   Liquid water occupies less volume than ice (this is a peculiar but well
   known property of water); so, as a consequence of Le Chatelier's principle
   compressing ice into a smaller volume will cause it to melt at a lower
   temperature. This is, even nowadays, often considered to be the main reason
   why ice skating is possible.

   However, a simple calculation demonstrates that this CANNOT be the true
   explanation: The pressure created by the weight of a typical skater on the
   blades is about 500 atmospheres, which only decreases the melting point of
   ice to about -3.5 degrees C. However, the optimal temperature for figure
   skating is between -5 and -6 degrees C. Hockey players prefer even colder
   ice (around -9 or -10 degrees) and a very enthusiastic outdoor skater could
   happily slide on ice at -20 degrees. Clearly, Le Chatelier principle cannot
   be the explanation.

   Friction of the blade against the ice while skating causes heat, which can
   contribute to melting the ice by warming. This process has been confirmed to
   be  more  important  than  the pressure melting mentioned above at low
   temperatures. However, friction melting does not explain why ice is also
   slippery when not moving (a point you may be familiar with if you have ever
   fallen while standing still at the barrier doing nothing).

   A more convincing explanation lies in the structure of ice: because the
   water  molecules  on the ice surface are not surrounded fully by other
   molecules they tend to adopt a denser, more disorganized and liquid-like
   structure than the ordered regular hexagonal packing of bulk ice. This
   quasi-liquid surface layer is thick enough to allow gliding down to -35
   degrees.

  1.20 How do you make an outdoor rink?

   1) Select a flat area which is as sheltered as much as possible from both
   sun and wind. Building ice over a nice lawn will make not such a nice lawn,
   so it's best to pick an area that you don't mind turning yellow (more than
   usual) for the first part of the spring.

   2) Construct a border of wood, such as 2x4 lumber, or use mounds of earth or
   snow to form a barrier and contain the water. Flatten and compact the snow
   in the rink area. Make sure you leave room for snow to be shoveled off the
   rink later on.

   3) Sprinkle water around the barrier first so that it becomes frozen solid.
   Do *not* flood. The main idea is to create an "ice bathtub" where you can
   pour water without it running away from you.

   4)  Then  sprinkle  water on the snow on the rink. An oscillating lawn
   sprinkler works great and will save your hands from freezing! Put on just
   enough to make a slush -- this is an important step. If you don't use enough
   water then you just get ice on top of snow. If you use too much water the
   snow will melt and run off.

   5) Once your base has been created, water it well on cold nights and allow
   it to freeze between waterings. Continue until you've got an inch or two of
   flat, solid ice. Air pockets should be broken and filled with "slush" to
   patch them (avoids broken ankles).

   6) After the rink has been skated on and the skaters have caused snow to
   form, scrape off the snow before adding any more water.

  1.21 Why does my music sound terrible in the ice rink?

   (Based on contributions by William Letendre and Lyle Walsh)
   Whether you are cutting your own music for a competition or test program or
   just want to have some of your favourite music to play while skating, you
   may be surprised and disappointed by the difference in sound quality when
   you hear the music on the rink system.

   The main problem with sound quality is caused by reverberation (multiple
   echo). In a typical Olympic sized rink, it takes sound about 0.2 seconds to
   travel the length of the rink. If the rink has plenty of sound damping
   insulation on the walls, the sound can be reflected a couple of times before
   it gets absorbed into inaudibility. In rinks with bare concrete or steel
   walls,  the  sound can be reflected around 10 times. This results in a
   reverberation time between 0.4 and 4 seconds. It is easy to see why a long
   reverberation time leads to problems in reproducing music. Most music at any
   tempo fast enough to skate to has beats and sub-beats at much closer spacing
   than a second or two; "allegro" tempo is generally played at a rate of
   anywhere between 4 and 10 beats per second! Music at that fast a beat will
   become  "mush" when played in a "live" rink, with the notes so blurred
   together as to be indistinguishable.

   As it happens, the typical materials used in building construction absorb
   treble notes much more effectively than they do bass notes. This means that
   the  effective reverberation time for, say, a flute piece will be much
   shorter than that for a bassoon piece. This is a lot of the reason that you
   want to avoid "bass heavy" music when playing in a large, echoic space such
   as an ice rink. The higher pitched notes will damp more quickly and sound
   more distinct.

   Finally, if you are lucky enough to skate in a rink with good acoustics,
   then you get hit from the other direction; short reverb times imply high
   acoustic loss, which means you need more acoustic power to produce loud
   sound. In fact, the high levels of power required can easily defeat the
   output power capacity of battery powered "boom boxes", forcing you to turn
   the volume up to the onset of audible distortion and beyond!

   While you cannot do much about the ice rink acoustics, it is possible to
   edit your music to work around the limitations of the rink music system.
   This  can be done easily with music editing software like Sound Forge,
   Goldwave or Audacity. Here are some tips:

   1) Turn off the Bass Boost on the playback system, most are terrible and
   will muddy up even the best recordings.

   2) Use some form of dynamic compression, eg wave hammer, so that the softest
   parts are no less than -15 to -20 dB and normalize all music to peak value
   of 0 dB.

   3) Add "air" i.e. boost the top frequencies above 15 kHz by 3 dB.

   4) If there is a lot of difference between the right and left channels then
   mix it in MONO as stereo is often lost and you can completely lose the vocal
   or melody line.

   6)  Avoid  cheap  "pop" recordings, as their engineering is absolutely
   terrible.

   7) If you record on tape for your program keep a virgin competition tape and
   watch your recording levels so that you don't go over +3dB.

  1.22 How do I find a suitable private instructor?

   1. If you have never had any skating lessons before, consider starting off
   with some group lessons (inquire in nearby rinks). The group lessons will
   introduce you to potential instructors and the structured setting may help
   you define your goals more clearly. This will be useful when setting off for
   private instruction.

   2. To select a coach for private lessons, start by making a comprehensive
   list of choices. You can ask about available coaches at your club/ice-rinks
   or skating acquaintances.

   3. If possible, observe the prospective coach teaching students. Watch how
   they interact during the lesson. Would you want them to interact with you in
   that style?

   3. Talk to students or their parents and find out what they like/don't like
   about the coach. Do not ask vague, subjective questions like "is Coach X
   nice?". Instead, try to find out:
     * Is the coach punctual
     * Is she/he organized and professional?
     * Is the coach experienced and enjoys teaching students of a comparable
       age/ability level to you or your child? (some coaches may be excellent
       with beginners but not have the experience to teach top level students,
       other prefer teaching fast progressing kids and may pay less attention
       to less advanced students, etc.)

   4. Arrange an interview with the coach. Here are some of the questions to
   ask when you interview a coach:
     * What are the highest tests she/he has passed?
     * Are they affiliated with a recognized skating association? If relevant,
       what is their PSA rating in the various disciplines?
     * Ask them to provide you with names of other skaters they are/have been
       coaching.
     * Discuss fees. Ask about their billing mode and lesson cancellation
       policy.

   5. Don't be afraid to take a trial lesson (at your expense) with a few
   different coaches. You will quickly know who you click with.

   6. Don't make a hasty decision and plan to give a coach a month or two
   before making a more permanent commitment. Sometimes it takes a while to get
   the communication flowing well.

    1.22.1 What are the guidelines to deal with coaches?

   1. Do not become close friends with your or your child's coach and don't
   hire a coach who is your friend. If you are in a close relationship with
   your or you child's coach it becomes very difficult to switch coaches or
   sometimes even talk honestly with them. It is advisable not to allow your
   child to spend time with the coach alone outside scheduled practice. If you
   find the relationship with the coach is becoming too intimate, consider a
   change in coaching.

   2. Be respectful to your coach. Be punctual for your lessons and always pay
   on time. If you might need to cancel a scheduled lesson, let your coach as
   soon as possible.

   3. If you decide to take lessons from someone else, it is advisable to tell
   your coach upfront, even if the extra lessons will not involve changes in
   your regular schedule with your coach. While having more than one coach is
   rather  common  and most coaches will be accommodating (some will even
   encourage you and give advice on a suitable alternative coach to work with),
   coaches are also human and it may upset them to find out from a third party.

      1.22.1.1 Should I tip my instructor?

   There are no well defined rules on tipping your coach. A few people tip
   their  coaches  on  a regular basis, many do not. You can express your
   appreciation in a perfectly appropriate manner by giving your coach a small
   present on their birthday or for Christmas. Ideas for presents include (but
   are not limited to) gift certificates, subscriptions to skating magazines,
   tickets for a coming ice show, a bottle of fine wine, etc.

      1.22.1.2 What are the rules for taking a coach to competitions?

   If you want your coach to put you on the ice or instruct you during local
   competition practices, make sure to discuss in advance your requirements and
   ask how much you will be charged (some coaches charge the same rate as for
   normal lessons, others charge a lump sum or may demand reimbursement for the
   travel.

   If the competition is far away enough that it requires flying and overnight
   stays, the sums involved can be rather considerable and you may have to set
   some parameters for the coach. For example, commit to pay for the lowest
   available 30-day advance air fare (so that the coach bears the extra cost if
   they book late or select a more expensive fare), so many nights of hotel,
   per diem, competition fee, car rental (depending on how far the hotel is
   from the rink and whether there is alternative transport available), etc. It
   is   advisable  to  put  all  this  in  writing  to  avoid  accidental
   misunderstandings.

  1.23 Is there a painless way to leave my coach?

   There are many reasons why you may want to leave your coach. Sometimes it
   boils down to a clash of personalities or styles, sometimes your skating
   "overgrows" your coach or perhaps you feel that your progress has stagnated
   and you want to experience an alternative training approach. Sometimes it is
   a  change  in  your  personal  circumstances  (loss of a job, shift in
   commitments). The latter case is probably the easier to handle with your
   coach, because there is nothing personal at stake. In the other cases,
   breaking the news to your coach can be a difficult experience.

   Fortunately, coaches are used to students changing and usually handle it
   well. In some cases, where the professional relationship has truly gone
   stale you coach may actually experience relief that you had the guts to end
   it! The most important thing is to be honest but tactful with them. This can
   feel particularly difficult if the reason for leaving is that you want to
   work with another coach. In any case, don't tell them that their coaching is
   all wrong and they are unpleasant to work with, but rather something like,
   "I feel like lately I have not been progressing at the rate I think I could,
   and I want to try a new approach with Coach X." Of course, both the exact
   form and the content of the message depends on the circumstances of your
   change. The important thing is to not belittle your coach's abilities.
     _________________________________________________________________

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM