A reason to skate (despite the cold!)

Ice skating has long been my favourite sport. It’s not necessarily for all people and given the very obvious fact that it can only be performed (barring indoor skating arenas of course) in cold, often wet conditions, there’s a great many people who aren’t keen on trying it. And for anyone living in a part of the world in which the temperature never drops below freezing for long enough for bodies of water to freeze, it might indeed be impossible for quite a few people.

I think it is probably true of most winter sports that without growing up (or at the very least leaving a long time) in a place that has cold winters, the appeal might be lost. But for me, having grown up in a place with winters longer than summers, winter sport was always a part of my life. I had a friend, as an adult, who grew up in the usually warm Melbourne. Although temperatures in Melbourne can get down to freezing, their summers are by far longer than their winters and the summers are hotter than the winters are cold.

Visiting me once in winter in northern Europe he commented on the fact that in Melbourne the winters are miserable because everyone just sits inside and waits for summer. With winters sometimes twice as long as summers in Europe, he postulated that most of Europe had developed a distinctly wintery culture. In Europe he didn’t mind the cold and the dark because people embraced it in the form of Christmas markets, regional festivals and of course winter sport.

Ice skating has always been my favourite. It’s not an easy one to learn though, especially as an adult. The sport requires balance and failing that, the ability to cover from falling, as so often is the case in the sport. For anyone considering trying the sport who might be understandably afraid of falling down and hurting themselves on the hard ice I can recommend using ice hockey skates—these sometimes have two blades as opposed to the one used for figure skates and thus are easier to maintain one’s balance. In the cases where they have only one blade it tends to be thicker than figure skates making it somewhat easier to balance.

And it should be noted that prices can soar into the hundreds and possibilities thousands for a pair of good skates, the average ones—especially if one is starting off are usually somewhere round 50€ (or equivalent) and there not excessively expensive.

Braving the elements incurred during ice skating is the most challenging part of the sport. But it yields great rewards and nowadays every time I go skating I spend a few minutes to pause and reflect on ice skating long and rich history. In some parts of the world, like Finland and the Netherlands, ice skating was an important and major part of the society, as important as horses were to Native Americans or Mongolian herdsmen. It’s a rich legacy worth exploring!