As a figure skater, I like to make sure I have the best equipment and have my expenses covered.
Figure skating is one thing that many people from all walks of life love to do. Gliding along can feel quite similar to flying with the rush of cool air on your face and through your hair. Once it's in your blood, you can't just stop thinking about it. Many people get their first taste of figure skating as children while larger numbers of people are beginning to skate on a recreational basis or competitively as teens and adults. A public session, a birthday party, or holiday outing are the most popular ways people get their first exposure to skating.
Keep in mind while reading this that the typical figure skating expenses that are shared here occur over years as a skater tests, competes, or chooses to perform in exhibitions. Typical figure skating expenses vary from skater to skater. For example, some people choose to test and get private coaching without competing which can save on travel expenses to competitions until they reach a point where they want to compete. Others never compete outside of their home rinks if they compete at all. Many people begin figure skating and continue doing so on a budget.
If you think the figures are costly, keep in mind that most people ease into skating with many never spending the large amounts that you might have heard of. As with anything, as you or your child progress, only you can choose what you will spend in relation to your specific goals within the sport whether competitively or recreationally.
Many people skate regularly one or more times a week at public sessions. Public sessions are just that; anyone can pay and access the ice. These sessions last a couple of hours or more and prices generally range between $7 and $15 per session (including skate rental). For many, this is not enough and signing up for group classes is often the next step. Group lessons meet once a week and most often last for about two months. This step usually costs in the range of $100 to $200 in most metro areas of the United States. Rental skates are usually included. Once your skating skills exceed those that are taught in the group classes or if you need extra attention to catch up or master the skills taught in the classes, private lessons will usually come into play.
How Much Should You Pay for Skates?
The most important figure skating expense will be that of your skates. If you or your child choose to begin skating regularly, you will need to buy a pair of skates that fit well and provide good support. Proper fitting skates are required for safe and fun skating. Ill-fitting skates can contribute to pain, wounds, and falls, and make it impossible to learn and execute various skills properly. Ill-fitting skates can also make the skater and/or those around them feel that skating is not the sport for them. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the various options and pricing so that you can differentiate what suits you and what it will cost.
As a beginner, it is recommended that you not overspend but it's also important not to underspend as well. There are a variety of children's beginner skates that range from $150 and up including blades. Fit and having the correct level of support are very important. Teen and adult skaters can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for well-fitting and supportive skates including blades. Be sure to buy figure skates from a retailer/dealer that specializes in figure skates, not the kinds you might buy at a KMart or from a department store. They have no support and are a waste of money for the purpose of figure skating.
The reason I recommend familiarizing yourself with prices is that many skater's desires change and proper fitting, high-quality skates are not cheap by most people's definitions, in and outside the sport. It would not be wise to spend several hundred or more than a thousand dollars on skates for any skater that may not get the most use out of the skates, may quit, or outgrow them very soon. This is simple fiscal responsibility for anyone regardless of their financial status. The idea of overspending even when money is no issue and particularly where no extra gains will be seen is incorrect and simply wasteful.
It also must be taken into account that skaters will break boots down quickly when skating for several hours daily several times a week. Teens and adult skaters will eventually break their boots down whether they are spending 15 to 30 hours on the ice weekly or not. Many people's feet will naturally widen as they age causing discomfort in regular shoes, let alone skates. Other times, skaters will eventually need new blades. If you buy used skates that are already broken down, that will be a waste of money because you will be forced to at least buy another pair of boots or choose a complete skate.
If you overspend on overly strong boots above your level of skating, this will also be a (painful) waste of money as these boots will be very difficult to break in and are too stiff for people whose skating is not up to the level of support that was purchased. Discuss your blade and boot needs with your group class teacher or private coach to get recommendations that are appropriate for your budget and level of skating. These people are most familiar with your skating level and needs. Also, your coach or group class teacher can recommend a good place for sharpenings.
Private Lessons Can Add Up
If you or your child are a beginner or recreational skater, it is not necessary to have a private lesson every day. Private lessons are part of the typical figure skating expenses for those who plan on taking figure skating tests, competing and/or performing in exhibitions. The majority of beginner and intermediate skaters will progress reasonably well with less than an hour or two of private coaching a week.
What's most important is that one practices with proper technique whether they are taking private lessons, group lessons or are practicing alone. No matter how much private coaching you have available, it is important to actually practice the skills using proper technique on your own. Also, you do not actually have to book a whole hour of time for a private lesson, and this can cut down on the cost of coaching in the beginning stages of skating.
Private lessons generally cost around $40 an hour and up. You will never know the coach's fee unless you ask them but never waste the time of any coach if you're not serious about lessons and finding out more to choose the right coach. Also, please do not treat figure skaters as free coaches in practice or at public sessions.
Make sure that your coach is experienced and has credentials that you can verify with the rink(s) they coach at or organizations such as the United States Figure Skating Association, Professional Skaters Association, or Ice Skating Institute. Coaches that have CPR certifications or medical experience (nurse, EMT, etc.) in addition to the above credentials and experience are quite appealing to parents but often short in supply.
If at all possible, don't let the hourly fee keep you from getting coaching or allowing your child to get private coaching. Many coaches offer hourly, half-hour, or twenty-minute lessons and are able to work around your schedule. Some coach at multiple rinks, making it more convenient for some skaters or their parents. If you're being quoted or charged much less than $40 an hour, double check that coach's experience and credentials.
Top coaches who have been national and international champions or have coached national and international champions may charge between $90 and $150 hourly. They are in high demand and if your skills, goals, and schedules mesh, their coaching is usually well worth the expense.
No matter what price range fits your budget, make sure you check out the coach's experience and credentials. The fees for private lessons are usually paid directly to the coach, but not always. This may vary depending on the rink, camp, or clinic that you utilize. Other times, coaches may be away when you want to pay, and they may make arrangements with the rink for you to leave your payment at the rink instead. However, some coaches will accept payments via PayPal, Square, etc. Talk to your coach to see which payments they accept, but you can never go wrong with the old standards of cash or checks.
Practice, Practice, and More Practice (Which Isn't Always Free!)
If you would like to get more practice in and aren't too picky, a cheaper option than freestyle sessions is practicing on public sessions. However, this is only an option if you will be doing lower-level moves and jumps. Do not hog the ice or cut other people off, don't attempt full program run-throughs, or very difficult jumps or you will quickly become an irritant to others. Also, as the saying goes "skate at your own risk" no matter if you're skating on a public, freestyle, or private session.
Going this route often does not work at some rinks because the sessions just may be very popular and crowded and figure skating can pose safety risks. The people skating on public sessions vary from session to session, and a large number of them will not know or even care that you want space to perform certain moves or jumps. You will have to be considerate of those you are sharing the ice with.
If you choose non-crowded sessions, you should be fine, but you must make the effort to scope out several sessions on the day of the week and at the time you want to skate prior to deciding that you can substitute certain public sessions for freestyle. On moderately busy or crowded sessions, practice on public sessions is usually an exercise in futility and frustration. Scope out your rink before attempting to go this route (even sporadically), find an alternate rink, or ante up for freestyle sessions.
There are a couple of other issues with skating on public sessions to note. There may be some people so excited about your skills that they may closely follow you around preventing you from doing any moves. Because it's a public session all you can do is ask that they keep their distance, but they don't have to adhere to your request.
Also, certain figure skating skills may be banned during crowded sessions or during public sessions altogether. Check to be sure. Other people may actually try to hog your time, acting as if you are there to teach them for free. Never mind how much you and thousands of other skaters must pay for group lessons or private coaching.
Freestyle sessions are dedicated to skaters who are able to skate above a minimum level (which varies from rink to rink), and some rinks set aside freestyle sessions for high, mid, and low freestyle skaters. The skaters on freestyle sessions are not as varied as those skating on public sessions, and most of them are fairly vigilant at looking out for others while practicing to avoid collisions.
On these sessions, you will be around skaters who often speed across the ice at speeds that can reach or exceed 25 MPH while practicing, so it is also very important for you to be aware of what's going on around you. These are a couple of reasons that there is typically a minimum skill set required to skate on freestyle ice time as flying skaters and blades generally do not mix well with people who cannot stand up on their skates or be alert to the ever-changing positions and speeds of those around them. Freestyle sessions are paid for on an hourly basis and generally range from $7 to $16 per hour for walk-on rates. Pre-paid/bulk purchase rates for freestyle ice time are often cheaper.
What Are You Wearing?
If you choose to compete or perform in exhibitions, be prepared to purchase at least one to three costumes per year depending on how many different routines you will be performing. Some skaters just like to switch up costumes depending on how often they'll be competing or performing. While in theory, you can use the exact same costume over and over; you will likely tire of it. While it is true that some routines have costumes made to fit, some skaters do like to switch costumes if they find something that they simply like better or is more suited to the music than the one they've already chosen.
Costumes can be purchased at a variety of price points with many people purchasing costumes for males and females at anywhere from fifty dollars to well over a thousand or two per costume. The price is up to the skater or the parent buying it. A large number of skaters do not spend more than two or three hundred on a costume. Some skaters sell their old costumes to buy new ones; others may trade costumes, or give them away to someone who can use them if they no longer fit. The thousand to several thousand dollars per costume fee is typically spent by national and international level competitors. Because it typically takes many years and many hours of training to get to that competitive level, I have to say that this high figure is not to be taken as the norm.
The wide variety in prices occurs due to the materials used such as unique fabrics, crystals, beading, sequins, etc., and the labor and difficulty involved with creating a custom costume. Off-the-rack costumes can be purchased for less than custom-made costumes and be customized with the aforementioned types of materials to lessen the cost while getting a more unique look. Even some of the national and international level competitors do this, and they come out beautifully. Gracie Gold's long-sleeved blue dress at the 2014 Olympics is a lovely example. No one wants to wear the exact same outfit as someone else, on or off the ice.
Several Optional Expenses to Help You Reach Your Goals
There are a variety of expenses in skating as with most other sports. For example, when you go back and forth to the rink, you are responsible for your gasoline, etc. If you were to get hurt, you are responsible for the medical expenses. When going to competitions or traveling for tests, you are responsible for your travel, food, and lodging. But you would also be responsible for paying a portion of or the entirety of your coach's travel, food, and lodging expenses for these things as well if they are going to that event to coach you.
Coaches may be considered well paid by some who choose to only look at the hourly pay, but coaching may be a labor of love and the financial equivalent of a part-time job for some coaches. This should be taken into consideration when you find that you must pay for them to be at your competitions. They too as skaters paid to ensure they had their coach's expertise at arm's length. Also, think of the fact that they may be leaving money on the table back at the rink at home to be there to coach you to your gold medal.
Another choice for improving your skating is off-ice training. Often this is done in a structured format such as a class at the rink, a ballet studio, a gymnastics class or in a local fitness gym. Others use videos or even video training with their skating coach. Off-ice skill training can translate into better performance on the ice; however, the skater's goals and current skill level should be taken into account before spending significant amounts of time or money on off-ice training. For example, it would not be wise to pay for off-ice training if the skater hasn't even mastered the most basic skills or doesn't wish to compete or test.
Another figure skating expense is figure skating camps and clinics. These are purely optional, but a lot of improvements may be made depending on the skater's dedication and the amount of practice they get in. Some camps and clinics cater strictly to adult skaters alleviating fears of skating with teens and little ones or being compared to them if that is a concern. Camps and clinics are a popular summer pastime for skaters of all ages and levels and can also be found on weekends at various times of the year around the country. The fees for these camps vary with the offerings and the total amount of time the skaters will be instructed. Many offer off-ice training, Dartfish technology, and nutritional assistance as well.
More Optional Expenses
Other costs of skating that can quickly add up are non-essentials. These include skating comforts and splurges, such as heated insoles, specially colored (purple, blue, green) skate blades, light-up blade guards, customized boot covers, etc. These things can sometimes be useful or just nice to have, but most of these things won't keep you off the ice if you didn't have them. There are expensive skate bags that many people run out and buy when they are fairly new to the sport when that money might be better spent on ice time or private lessons for a month or two.
Less expensive options would be to buy things that are must-haves and reserve any savings for ice time, private coaching, etc. While having that shiny new $200 skate bag might give you a pick-me-up for a week or two, there is nothing lasting about that fleeting feeling. A better choice would be to spend $50 on a rolling bag (luggage is commonly used as skate bags) and use $150 towards ice time and coaching. This choice will move you further in your attainment of certain skills and keep you skating that much longer if money's tight and for many skaters it is! The more you love skating, the more you will choose it above flash. A life lesson learned from figure skating is that skill and substance are much more lasting than flash.
How You Participate Is Your Choice
While it's true that there are some (national and international competitive) figure skaters who spend five or even six figures (very rare) on skating each year, this is not the norm for some competitive, let alone recreational skaters. Don't let the potential costs scare you away from participating in the sport at any level or age.
What you or your child may get out of it truly is of greater value in the short and long term mentally and physically. Figure skating also teaches life lessons that may not be otherwise learned. However, only you can set your budget for skating. If you're skating on a recreational basis, it's likely that you can skate only on public sessions saving yourself money because you usually can often skate for several hours for the price of a single hour of freestyle ice. If you want to skate on freestyle sessions and have the skills to do so, buying ice time in bulk will give you a discount at some rinks. Be sure to ask.
It's possible to spend less than $50 monthly for public sessions only (outside of the initial cost of buying skates) and be perfectly happy with skating. It's when you become a die-hard competitor that the higher costs eventually creep in. Competitive figure skating costs do not increase overnight; the skater has to be quite dedicated and talented to make greater expenditures unless they or their parents have money they want to waste.
I truly hope I have helped your understanding of some of the costs of figure skating. In addition, I hope that I have not turned anyone away from figure skating on potential costs. It's always good to be informed and make your plans accordingly so that you can enjoy the sport from a more informed perspective and within the budget that you set. Happy skating!
© 2012 H C Palting
H C Palting (author) from East Coast on February 20, 2018:
Sorry but no I don't know who this team is. It appears they are competing in a European or possibly Canadian competition in this photo. Who they are exactly I cannot say with any confidence because neither of their faces are showing and they aren't identified by the source of the photo.
Jbarefoot on February 19, 2018:
thank you for your post, but do you know who and what competition the pair skaters are in the photo near the bottom of the post (they are wearing red, orange, and black, and they are posed as if their bodies are forming a table)?
Doopy on March 04, 2017:
I can do double salchow, anything harder than that is kinda hard.
H C Palting (author) from East Coast on January 21, 2015:
It's certainly fun and don't worry even the best of the best fall. Sometimes it can hurt but usually it makes you laugh at yourself.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 20, 2015:
never been to ice skating, afraid of falling off
H C Palting (author) from East Coast on September 29, 2014:
Thanks for sharing your story. I am sorry this was your experience and wish I could have known you to have helped you save on at least some of the costs. Just as an example, I always tell people to find a reasonably priced rolling luggage or rolling backpack for their skates, I know people who have spent (I am not kidding) $200, $300 or more on a bag to hold skates and two of these people's kids had to quit...because of all the expenses. Some expenses one cannot lowered but there are probably 30% or possibly more than can be.
Your experience is common and the vast majority of skaters have quit by the time they get to high school and even if they're getting more of a social life, quitting is overwhelmingly linked to the costs of participation. Figure skating is very expensive unless you have inherited a rink or have a frozen, rink sized pond year round. But, like other sports, the costs increase as one's gets better and competes more often.
I hope your kids still love skating and maybe get back into it one day. It is an excellent way to maintain your health and weight or lose weight and improve your health (mentally and physically). You don't even have to be able to jump and spin to get these benefits and this is why I highly recommend it to anyone who will listen :) Lots of people aged 18 and WELL over begin skating or come back to it once they can afford it later in life, who knows, your girls still could end up being figure skating champs if they want :)
Tara on September 27, 2014:
My three older daughters started skating when they were, 3, 6, and 8 respectively. They absolutely loved it as did I. However, I didn't realize how much it would eventually cost. They skated in a LTS class and skated on public ice for about a year. Then, they started to take private lessons. At first it was $20.00 for a 20 minute lesson per girl per week on public ice which cost only $3..00 per girl per session and per practice. They became really good. My youngest daughter won her first gold metal when she was only 4. But the price just kept going up and up. I had to pay for lessons that were $30.00 per lesson for each girl. Before competitions I paid $220. per week for the girls to practice. Then they started to have to skate on freestyle ice which was $10 per girl plus $30.00 per girl for coaching fees. Getting skates sharpened it was around $36 per every 6 weeks. My daughters last pair of skates were over $300 for one pair. Plus the cost of dresses, practice outfits, and acces. Their bags cost over $100 each. I figured out that we spent around $20,000 in the 2 1/2 years that they skated. I finally said enough was enough. I even asked the coach if she would cut me a deal and combine the price or something for all my girls. That was a no go. I felt betrayed cause of how long my girls were with their coach.
H C Palting (author) from East Coast on April 04, 2013:
Congratulations! I am always happy to hear of a supportive parent in figure skating. Parents can be left in the dark but I'm happy that you are seeking information so that you will not be.
L C David from Florida on April 04, 2013:
My son has just passed the USFA Basic 1-8 and we are starting private lessons and letting him try to figure out where he wants to go with it. I especially appreciated your explanation about why you pay for coach expenses when you travel to competitions. At least where we are, parents are often left in the dark as far as options and what is the best for their child. Looking forward to reading more of your figure skating hubs.
H C Palting (author) from East Coast on April 04, 2013:
Thanks so much for reading LCDWriter. My aim here is to inform those who are not familiar with the costs associated with the various levels of involvement. While this is not all encompassing, it does serve to show proof to those who refuse to allow their kids to take part only due to myths about costs.
L C David from Florida on April 04, 2013:
Thanks for this article. Great information for this figure skating parent!
H C Palting (author) from East Coast on May 27, 2012:
When you think of all the things that skaters and their families must pay for it really shows a great deal of commitment when we see them competing on t.v.
Life Under Construction from Neverland on May 26, 2012:
i would love this figure skating if only we had free ice here :) very great hub.
H C Palting (author) from East Coast on May 14, 2012:
Good to see you stopped by Marlene. Figure skating is usually a very highly watched sport on t.v. and that's where my love for jumping and spinning began.
H C Palting (author) from East Coast on May 14, 2012:
Thanks so much Lady_E. It puts the dedication of the skaters in a new light when they learn of the costs of the sport, particularly at the highest levels typically broadcast on t.v.
Elena from London, UK on May 14, 2012:
Very interesting to read. That lady in grey looks so elegant, the way she skates. I wish I had learnt at an early age. First time I tried skating was at a Disco Skating ring. I never knew those blades were so thin.
Those non-essentials really do add up. This Hub will help many. It's a beautiful sport to do and watch. Thanks.
Marlene Bertrand from USA on April 28, 2012:
I love figure skating. I never skated for competition or anything like that - just for recreation. But I really enjoy watching figure skating. It's one of my favorite events.