Tips for Beginner Ice Skaters

Tips for Beginner Ice Skaters

January 6, 20233 min read

Whether you enjoy figure skating, hockey, or speed skating, winter is the best time to bundle up and head to your local ice rink. So, which of the 200 biggest U.S. cities have the most glorious opportunities to glide on ice? To find out, LawnStarter ranked 2023’s Best Cities for Ice Skating.

Dr. Kelly Goonan, program coordinator and assistant professor of outdoor recreation in parks and tourism at Southern Utah University, offers the following advice for beginners as well as important safety tips while enjoying the outdoors. 

For someone trying ice skating for the first time, I would recommend going to a skating rink since you can be confident that the ice is being maintained and is safe for skating. Also, be prepared to fall and try again! Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t “click” right away, as many activities take more than one try to get the hang of.
For most people, the hardest aspect of ice skating is stopping. There are multiple techniques to stop, so it’s a good idea to ask a staff member or experienced ice skater to explain and demonstrate those techniques. Start out slow and practice stopping. Once you are able to come to a controlled stop, then you can pick up the pace.

Dr. Goonan recommends skating at an ice rink, as they are maintained and monitored to ensure the ice is strong enough to hold the weight of the skaters and likely will not have any hazards like cracks, large chips, or thin spots.

Judging the strength of ice on natural bodies of water –– like lakes or ponds –– is very difficult to do without special training and equipment. Even on very cold days, the ice may not be suitable for skating. It is important to understand that the risk of injury is much higher skating on natural bodies of water than at a rink, and skating on frozen bodies of water is not advised.

However, if you do choose to ice skate outdoors on a frozen body of water, take the following precautions:

  1. Do not skate on river ice or ice covered in snow.
  2. Stay away from white ice.
  3. Do not skate if you see cracks in the ice.
  4. Ice should be clear and at least 4 inches (10 cm) thick. Check multiple areas to ensure there are no thin spots, cracks, or white ice.
  5. Wear a life jacket over your winter jacket. This may sound silly, but wet clothes will be heavier and make it more difficult to get out of the water or keep your head above the surface if you do fall in.
  6. Go with a buddy. Never go ice skating outdoors on natural bodies of water by yourself.
  7. Research and practice self-rescue skills for falling through ice into water.
  8. If someone falls through the ice, do not go after them. Call 9-1-1 immediately. If you are able, reach or toss an object like a rope, ladder, or tree branch to the victim. If you have an item they can hold onto to help them stay afloat, like an extra life jacket, toss that to them as well. Talk to them and remain calm while you wait for professional rescue crews to arrive.

A self-described “hybrid recreation ecologist/recreation social scientist”, Dr. Goonan’s expertise is in the management of outdoor recreation, natural resources, and protected areas. She is familiar with the media and available for an interview

Connect with:
  • Kelly Goonan
    Kelly Goonan Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation

    Outdoor recreation expertise with outdoor safety tips, planning national park visits, and planning and management of outdoor recreation.

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