Three Ideas to Try This Summer

The ice is always there, waiting for you to come out and explore. And with more than 1,000 Learn to Skate USA powered by Toyota programs offering classes nationwide, there’s more to discover than ever before. Learn to Skate USA’s passionate, certified directors and instructors are working to help instill a lifelong love of skating in participants across the country, no matter their goals and experience. As summer activities approach, here’s a look at three ways our directors and instructors are keeping skating FUN!

City of Mentor Ice Arena: Hockey Cheerleading

Colleen Thomas, program director for the City of Mentor Ice Arena in Mentor, Ohio, has developed activities within her Learn to Skate USA program that extend the joys of the ice far beyond a traditional class structure, including a Toddler Crawl specifically designed for future skaters too young for the standard curriculum.

“This class is 15 minutes and the children are under the age of 3,” Thomas said. “They wear snow suits, boots, gloves and helmets; they go on the ice and we put out small nets, stuffed animals and bubbles. The children and the parents love it. It gives younger siblings a chance to touch the ice.”

Thomas has developed a host of other activities to further growth and inclusion in her program, including a Bubble Derby (involving rented inflatable bubbles on the ice), ice painting (free before public sessions), competition class (a six-week prep course to prepare skaters from Tot 1 through Freestyle and their parents for their first Ohio Basic Skills competition) and even a Hockey Cheerleading program.

“The skaters meet once a week starting in October and perform a short routine to music at the rink’s youth and high school hockey games,” Thomas said.

Greensboro Ice House: American Girl Sweatheart Skate

Nicole Gaboury, skating director at the Greensboro Ice House in Greensboro, North Carolina, is also developing recreational activities within her program, including the rink’s second annual American Girl Sweetheart Skate.

“We’ve had about 40 participants each year,” Gaboury said. “If their first experience is on the ice is positive and fun, those participants want to get back out there, whether that’s through signing up for Learn to Skate USA classes or booking a birthday party at our facility. The concept just draws people in.”

The Sweetheart Skate, which Gaboury plans to expand to male skaters, includes a traditional first skating lesson without the American Girl dolls. After the lesson, the girls bring the dolls on the ice to learn a one-minute routine to perform. Post-performance, participants are treated to a hot cocoa and cookie break in a party room decked out in American Girl décor before ending the event with an open skate period with their dolls.

“It all started because we had ice time available around Valentine’s Day,” Gaboury said. “Then we developed this concept to make the first time on the ice less scary for these girls. Plus they all have a shared interest in the American Girl dolls, which is a natural fit for our demographic. I can’t see this not being a staple in our program for years to come.”

Idaho IceWorld: Adaptive Skating

Jackie Woodland, hockey/ice skating recreation specialist for the City of Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department, is working to make activities at Idaho IceWorld more inclusive, extending performance and competition opportunities to skaters pursuing Learn to Skate USA’s therapeutic track and other recreational adaptive skaters.

“We take the term ‘adaptive’ as far as necessary to create skating experiences that are fun and rewarding to the individual skater,” Woodland said. “Our local club, Boise FSC, has skaters in their annual competition entered into the therapeutic events, including a unique event for a skater using an ice sled.”

In addition to competing, Idaho IceWorld is extending performance opportunity to individuals with disabilities, even streamlining these skaters into standard classes for further enrichment on the ice.

“We have included an adaptive skating number in our past two annual ice shows,” Woodland said. “We’ve also included skaters with disabilities within the Learn to Skate levels if they have been mainstreamed into those groups.”

Learn to Skate USA recognizes skating as a timeless activity anyone can enjoy, regardless of ability or prior skating experience. To find a program in your area, visit FindASkatingProgram, and visit your local facility for information on upcoming events.