Ice skating is a great way to beat the winter blues and enjoy some of the colder months, plus there are public rinks in your area that you can visit year-round. Once you learn how to ice skate, it’s tough to forget, and you will hopefully be skating backward just as quickly as you skate forwards!
It takes a bit of practice to get your balance and build up the confidence to go fast and, most importantly, to stop safely. We cover all the basics below, and after reading this, you’ll be able to start your skating career. Most rinks are renting skates now, so you don’t even need your own. First, let’s go over some pointers so you can learn how to ice skate quickly.
The first thing to do before you start skating is to select a pair of skates. There are two types, and you will find arguments made on behalf of both as to which is better for beginners.
Ice Hockey Skates — The most significant difference is the lack of toe picks on hockey skates. This can make it easier for beginners as there is less chance of tripping and falling forward. With hockey skates, you will get more ankle support but will have to stop using the edges of your skate blades.
Figure Skates — Easily identified by the toe pick at the front of the blade, which is used to control and stop. The toe pick is three or four teeth just above the ice, so tripping is very common at first. Once you get comfortable with this, you will have more mobility than those wearing hockey skates.
For more information about both types of skates, read our best ice skates for beginners review.
Preparing For Ice Skating
Here are some tips on how to get ready and make the most of your skating experience. Some people forget that skating on ice can be very cold, depending on where you are.
How To Dress
Ice skating is an active hobby, and you should wear something mobile and sweat absorbent. Also, since you will be skating on ice, it will be cold! Instead of wearing one oversized jacket, wear multiple light sweaters or long-sleeved t-shirts. This gives you the choice of taking one or two layers off to find the most comfortable outfit for you, no matter what the weather or temperature is. Click here to get more information on what to wear ice skating indoors and outdoors.
Lacing Your Skates
Lacing your skates is not like tying your sneakers. They should be as tight as possible – without hurting you, of course. Start from the bottom or toe end of the skate and pull hard from the eyelets. These laces are designed to keep their tension as you work your way up the skate. Once at the top, tie them using a double knot, so there’s no chance of them coming undone.
If you have laces that are too long (which happens a lot if you rent skates), just wrap them around your ankle as many times as needed to make a manageable double knot.
Time to start ice skating. You’re all dressed, and you have your skates appropriately tied and tight. Don’t forget to take off your skate guards. Then let’s head out to the rink!
How To Get On The Ice
Your first steps onto the ice rink won’t be graceful. Don’t worry; everyone starts like this.
As you approach the ice surface, there will probably be a step over a ledge or at least down to the ice. Have a firm grasp on the edge of the boards to keep you upright.
Step down onto the ice with one foot while keeping your knees slightly bent and your blade parallel to the boards. Bring your second foot onto the ice while still holding the same place on the boards. You can now use your hands for stability and also to get yourself moving forward. Looking for other ways to have fun on the ice? Read about the Best Snow Tubes and enjoy your time with your family.
Getting Round The Rink
Now that you are on the ice rink, it’s time to start skating. Keep your hands on the boards for as long as you feel comfortable. Just get used to standing on your skates at first.
Your toes should be pointed out, and your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. At this point, you can just try walking. If it’s your first-time ice skating, don’t worry about pushing off and going fast, as this could make your feet slide from under you. Just bend your knees and stay close to the boards until you get comfortable.
Falling will inevitably happen, but there are ways to limit this, so you don’t spend too much time on your rear. Keeping your knees gently bent is the most effective defense you have against falls. It will stabilize you as you improve and will help you skate fast. Also, if you bend your knees, you’ll fall properly, so you have less distance to the ice, and it won’t hurt as much.
…And Learning How To Fall – And Get Back Up
When you do fall, getting up can be difficult your first couple of times. Whether you fall forward or backward, the first thing to do is get on your hands and knees. This puts you in the perfect position to get up and get back to ice skating.
From here, bring one foot forward and place your skate blade on the ice. Use your strongest leg since all your weight will be on this foot for a second. You can now take your hands off the ice and should be down on one knee (marriage proposal pose). Use the skate that’s on the ice to push yourself up and continue skating.
How To Skate
Let’s talk strategy now: you’re ready to get some theory about how to skate effectively and faster. This is the best part about skating. With minimal effort, you can go very fast. See also Figure Skate Vs Hockey Skate here.
Don’t get ahead of yourself though, start slow and maintain your balance. You can’t go fast if you’re unstable and unsure about your footing. Try to skate across the ice from one side to the other along one of the lines painted for hockey. You’ll practice skating forward while also staying in control.
How To Stop
Stopping is tough and will be different depending on what type of skates you’re wearing.
Ice Hockey Skates — The easiest way to stop is to point your toes inward towards each other. Lean back on your heels to prevent yourself from falling forward. This is called the snowplow. If you are looking for the hockey skates, read our post about Best Hockey Skates next.
Figure Skates — With this style of skate, you can use the toepick to slow yourself down. Just like you would with roller skates, use one foot to point your toe and drag the pick through the ice. Don’t push too hard as you don’t want to leave a huge rut in the ice for someone to trip on. Looking for figure skates? Find out more here.
Possibly the best part about skating is gaining a bit of speed and then enjoying the cool breeze in your face as you glide forward. Gliding is when you are in motion but not taking any strides. The most crucial aspect here is that you keep your knees bent.
You may see other skaters gliding with straight knees, but they are just showing off, and one day you can too. Learning the proper way prevents a lot of falling.
Always, always, always look forward to see where you are going and where you want to go. This is a balance technique used across many sports, and that’s because it works. If you’re looking down at your feet, you’re not getting a good feel for your balance and how to ice skate.
Ice Skating Tips And Tricks
Now that you know how to ice skate, we can dive a little deeper and cover some more advanced techniques to make you an even better skater.
Start from a stand-still position and bend your knees even more than when you skate forward. Turn your toes inward, so they are pointing towards each other.
Using one foot at a time, create circular patterns with each foot by pushing out away from your body, leading with your heel. Each foot will cause you to turn a little, so you must push equally as hard with each leg to skate backward in a straight line.
This is the same motion as skating backward, except you are now going forward. Start with your feet together, and of course, don’t forget to bend your knees.
Point your toes outward, so only your heels are touching. Use your strongest leg first to push out and draw a “C” in the ice with your skate. Once it has completed this and returned to the middle with your other foot, you can repeat the process with your other leg.
A dip is nothing more than a squat on ice while ice skating. Take a couple of strides so that you are gliding with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms straight out in front of you, so they are parallel to the ice. Keeping your weight in the middle of your feet, drop your hips as low as you can.
Over time you should be able to get down and continue gliding in this dip position. To get up, keep your arms outstretched and push up using your leg muscles.
Use crossovers to make turns and also increase your speed coming out of the turn. You want to give yourself lots of space from the boards so you won’t crash into them if you fall. Suppose you’re turning left, then lean left with all of your weight on your left foot. Pick up your right foot and cross it over the other foot. Now shift all your weight onto the right foot and repeat the process.
Used more in figure skating since hockey players will not need to spin as often. Start in the middle of the ice with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out sideways, so they are parallel to the ice. Using your upper body, swing your arms around, so you start to turn. As you gain speed, straighten your knees and bring your arms into your chest. This will help you spin faster and improve your figure skating spins.
What Not To Do When Ice Skating
- Do not straighten your knees when learning how to ice skate – this is a sure-fire way to fall, and you will fall further since you’re standing tall
- Do not look down at your feet – looking forward is the best way to keep your balance and improve the fastest
- Do not bend your ankles in or out – keep them straight so your blades are perfectly flat on the ice and your feet are shoulder-width apart
The Benefits Of Ice Skating
- Ice skating is good exercise as it improves stamina and increases cardiovascular health
- Ice skating is also great for joint flexibility since you will be extending your legs and arms a lot for speed and balance
- Ice skating can also be excellent for your mental health – if you are lucky enough to have an outdoor pond, then a nice skate at sunset is just what the doctor ordered for peace and quiet
- Young children can also reap the rewards of ice skating as this skill will stay with them their entire lives – once you learn how to skate, you will never forget
If you are fond of hockey and would like to get the best hockey gear and equipment, see our reviews of the Best Hockey Helmets, Best Hockey Sticks, Hockey Pucks and Best Hockey Rebounders.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Ice Skate For The First Time?
To ice skate for the first time, you must first choose the right skate: hockey skate or figure skate, then when you get on the ice, stay close to the boards and keep at least one hand on at all times. Keep your knees bent for balance and reduce the distance of your fall should you lose your footing.
Is Ice Skating Difficult?
Yes, ice skating is difficult but only when you’re learning how to ice skate. Once you get comfortable with the balance and speed, skating is no more difficult than walking. Good skates for practicing on the rink is key! Keep practicing, and you’ll wish you could skate everywhere after a short while.
What Do You Need To Ice Skate?
To ice skate, you need ice, skates, warm and flexible clothing, and if you’re new, a helmet is a good idea as well. Skating is an excellent source of exercise that requires very little equipment and can be enjoyed outdoors. You can buy a pair of second-hand skates to save money while learning. Once you have learned, you can buy a good pair of your own skates that will suit you perfectly.
Can I Teach Myself To Ice Skate?
Yes, you can teach yourself how to skate. If you read this far then, you now know everything you need to know to get started and have fun. Just like anything else, if you spend a lot of time ice skating, then you’ll improve fast and will enjoy this activity even more.
Is It Easy To Balance On Ice Skates?
No, it is not easy to balance on ice skates at first. You may need to practice falling first before you start gliding. After a while, skating becomes second nature and is as easy as walking. You’ll wish you could skate everywhere and not just at the public rink.
Whether you want to learn hockey or figure skating, your first-time ice skating will be challenging. You will become very comfortable over time as long as you stick to the basics and continue to practice. It’s also important to have fun as well. Learning a new skill can be frustrating, but the pros far outweigh the cons when you know how to ice skate. Enjoy yourself, practice, and above all, have fun!