Skaters — from novice to pro — share their tips for taking the ice

By Paul Harris

Even as outside temperatures drop, locals will venture inside this winter for an even colder experience.

Their destination is the Jon and Ruth Ann Wefald Pavilion ice rink, which will be open through the winter. But while many of the rink’s users are experienced skaters, others will take to the ice for the first time.

To help those in the novice category, The Mercury went looking for tips - both from beginners and experts - on precisely how it is you balance your entire body on a thin blade and then glide quickly across a sheet of ice without injuring anything. While you may not turn in to an Olympic figure-skating champion your first time out, these tips will help make you feel more comfortable before stepping out on to the ice.

Brian Nechols, 28

Nechols flew up and down the ice. With music pulsating into his ears, he went forward and then backward on quick notice. Nechols, a former hockey player, started skating in the fourth grade.

Nechols said he picked up the skill after attending a classmate’s birthday party. He and his family were from Minnesota and had been skating for nearly their entire lives. “I just kind of threw myself in to it,” he said.

While the long-haired 28-year-old glides up and down the ice with ease now, he said he has had his share of falls throughout out his nearly 19-year ice-skating tenure.

“Everyone goes through a falling phase,” Nechols said. He recommended going in with an “‘I don’t care’ attitude.”

Balance is the most important aspect of skating, according to Nechols.

That, he added, means “keeping your legs bent rather than bending at the waist and keeping your center of gravity.”

He said that to become better you have to be willing to try new things.

“Ask someone who is better than you,” he said. “Watch better skaters and imitate them. I have shown people how to do things and they kept practicing until they were able to do it.”


Trenton Ross, 41

Trenton Ross, a second-year skater, was in the midst of teaching his daughter, 6-year-old Alison, how to skate. Alison seemed more pre-occupied with munching on her bag of cheese crackers and sipping on her cup of hot cocoa. During one of her breaks, Alison was forced to make it out to the ice by herself to chase her father down.

Supported by the rink’s wall, Alison called out to her dad.

“Dad!” she yelled. “Stay there. I’m coming.” She gathered up the courage to make her move and wobbled her way to her father. Alison got to her father without falling. 

Ross said he quickly became a student as well last year after taking his elder daughter, Abi, 8, to the pavilion.

“Both of us put on the skates for the first time. She actually taught me how to skate,” he said with a chuckle.

Ross said he went last year on a whim.

“I thought with two daughters, why not?” he said.

Ross said his biggest piece of advice is to take it slow and stay upright.

“Don’t fall down,” Trenton said. “It hurts. It is easier than roller skating, though.”

Ross has inserted his daughters into ice skating lessons and actually bought his older daughter her own pair of ice skates last year.

“She loves it,” Ross said, gesturing to Abi.


Abi Ross, 9

Abi Ross came to the pavilion as a beginner, but after one short year, the 9-year-old has taught herself how to go backward and is better than her father.

“(That) feels pretty good,” she said.

The freedom and independence is what first attracted her to the ice and has kept her coming back since.

“People can’t tell you what to do,” she said. “I learned how to do it by myself.”

Ross said balance and determination are important aspects when learning how to skate.


Jim Haug, 13

“You have to believe in yourself,” Jim Haug said. “Be determined.”

Haug, in his third year of ice-skating, is not the only one in his family who loves the rink. He said his four brothers also skate. Haug, who also participates in track as a shot put and discus thrower, said skating appealed to him because you “use your legs a lot like you do in track.”

He comes to the rink at least three times a week and spends about four hours every time.

“It’s just something to do,” Haug said. “(I love) getting to do whatever I want to do.”

Haug is looking to add the backward crossover to his repertoire this year. He said it will take him about one week to learn.

Haug said he is going to continue to skate as long as lives.


Idalia Wolfe, 50

Wolfe came to the ice rink ready to read her book and watch her daughter and husband. But after a bit of chiding from her husband, Rodney, Idalia decided to forsake her novel for a pair for skates.

“The great thing about falling down while skating is that you don’t need to run inside and get ice because the ice is already there,” Rodney teased.

“I wanted to say that I tried it,” said Wolfe. “My daughter, Portia, 7, is doing it. I was a little nervous. It looked hard. They (pointing to the other skaters), make it look easy.”

Idalia took the ice with the help of her husband. He held her up as she got her feet underneath her.

“She started doing it on her own,” Rodney said. “She was letting go of me.”

Idalia described her first tumble as “not that bad.” She advised keeping your skates at an angle, instead of straight forward, when skating. And she encouraged all beginners to go out there and do it, regardless of age.

“Have someone in your life to encourage you,” Wolfe said. “I probably would not have done it if I were by myself.”

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