Ian has been involved in the figure skating world for almost a decade as a parent to a USFSA gold medalist and as a volunteer at events.
Learn to Skate
Figure skating is a great sport for all ages, and most households have a rink within easy reach. In this article, I’ll explain:
- How to get started without spending too much money (in case your skater decides it’s not really for them).
- What to expect in terms of lessons and costs.
- What the next steps will be if your skater wants to get more involved.
In the U.S., the national governing body is U.S. Figure Skating, or USFSA.
Step 1: Find a Local Club
The USFSA website has a great tool on their website which can search for clubs near you. It covers the U.S. and Canada.
You should look for a club that offers group lessons. This is the best way to start, and there are several advantages. Group lessons follow a curriculum that's been developed over years of practice
Step 2: Start With Group Lessons
The majority of beginners get started with group lessons, either Snowplow Sam or Basic Skills. If your skater wants to keep progressing after completing the Basic Skills lessons, you’ll want to look at a private coach. But group lessons are a very affordable way to see if it’s a passing interest or something that will keep going.
Group lessons help to keep the costs down in a couple of ways. By spreading the cost of ice time and coach time over several people, it’s a lot cheaper than a private lesson. The other key is to rent skates for the lessons. Figure skates rapidly get very expensive, so hold off buying a pair until you know if your skater is going to continue with the sport.
There are two levels of group lessons, Snowplow Sam and Basic Skills.
- Preschoolers start with Snowplow Sam.
- Ages six and above start with Basic Skills.
The three levels of Snowplow Sam cover all the same skills as the Basic Skills 1 course, but they’re separated out into more manageable chunks. This is much easier to handle for very young skaters.
Snowplow Sam and Basic Skills Compared
|Snowplow Sam||Basic Skills|
Best for preschoolers
Aimed at six or older
Three or four levels
Cost: $120 to $170
Cost: $120 to $200
Up to seven in the group
Up to 10 in the group
Snowplow Sam Explained
USFSA’s program has three levels; Learn to Skate USA is just the same three levels plus a fourth level that covers some more difficult skills. Your rink will use one or the other.
Snowplow Sam lessons are aimed at very young skaters who are just beginning, and they’re designed to make a non-skater feel more comfortable on the ice. These are really to build confidence. If your child has already been on the ice, the rink might suggest they skip these levels and move on to the basic skills course.
Skaters move through these levels at their own pace. The instructor will let you know when they’re ready to move on to the next level. Some skaters need a few sessions to build their confidence, while other kids just seem to click.
Basic Skills Explained
Basic skills is where your skater will start getting into the fundamentals of the sport. They’ll learn different turning techniques, how to skate backwards, and even get started with spins and jumps.
The Basic Skills program consists of eight different levels. Skaters move at their own pace, and might even skip some levels. The Basic 1 level teaches all the same skills as the Snowplow Sam program, so young skaters who are moving up from that program might start at Basic 2.
- Basic 1 & 2 are beginning levels
- Basic 3–6 are intermediate levels
- Your rink might use Basic 7 & 8 or Pre-Freeskate to describe the last two levels, but the content is the same.
Moving On: Private Lessons
As your skater is moving through the Basic Skills program, you'll probably be wondering what comes next. Group lessons are ideal for starting figure skating, but to move beyond Basic Skills, you'll need to start working with a private coach.
To get the most out of coaching, your skater will have to decide what kind of figure skating is most interesting to them. They may choose to focus on freestyle, dance, or some other form of figure skating. One option that is very popular in larger clubs is the team sport of synchronized skating.
If your skater has been renting skates to this point, they will also need to buy their own skates. Recreational level sets which include boots and blades will cost $70 to $100, while beginner level will cost $100 to $300. As your skater moves into more advanced levels, their coach or skate shop professional will advise on buying boots and blades separately, with different options being suited to style, age, and other factors.
There's much more to discuss when it comes to private lessons. Look for my article in a few weeks where I'll talk about this in depth.
© 2019 Ian Mundell