Mother Nature hasn’t felt like offering up much white stuff (until recently) for my family to enjoy our usual outdoor winter fun on skis and sleds. So, we’re adapting. The cold spell has offered conditions to get outdoor community ice skating rinks around southern Maine up and running.

Ice skating is something I introduced to my kids when they were preschoolers. I felt they should have a comfort level to be “social” about it. Basically, I figured if some friends asked them to go ice skating, they could accept the invitation with confidence they knew the basics to have fun.

When the girls were little, I collected various sizes of inexpensive ice skates through second-hand stores and yard sales. I would bring along a small plastic lawn chair or old milk crate to an outdoor rink and make sure the girls were wearing a thick pair of snow pants to pad their little behinds for the inevitable falls. Then we’d skate around until we couldn’t feel our toes, which was usually less than an hour. But how long we spent on the ice didn’t matter. The activity was free and the girls had a ton of fun, with most of the giggles happening when I fell.

When my girls were in elementary school they had friends who were learning to figure skate in a formal learn-to-skate program. My girls could have cared less about taking lessons at that time. But I learned two important things about ice skating equipment from my figure skating mom friend.

* A firm figure skating boot that offers solid ankle support makes the experience a lot more fun, because standing and simple gliding is significantly easier.

* A sharp blade is absolutely worth the sharpening fee.


A stiffer figure skating boot offers ankle support that will keep a skater upright more easily than the old floppy boots. Trust me, this makes a BIG difference! Play It Again sports offers these type of skates second-hand, but I also have friends who have found good quality figure skates in various sizes through eBay and Craigslist. When used, these types of skates run about $25-$40; new, they start around $50-$70. L.L. Bean also offers some good skates for tots with an ankle strap for added support.

When my girls decided to take formal skating lessons about a year and a half ago, I borrowed a pair of good quality skates from my friend and purchased another pair on sale for $60. My girls used those skates for about a year, until they started learning jumps and spins. That’s when I had to make the investment in custom fit skates from a pro shop. I had some serious sticker shock on that trip, even though the girls had a Cinderella-like fitting experience. That, however, is a story for another time.

As for sharp blades, that makes all the gliding difference for a novice skater. The frustration level in learning the sport can be lessened with a simple sharpening. Most ice rinks offer a basic sharpening service for $5-$8 per pair and often can do the sharpening while you wait.

As for where to take your family skating, there are a lot of options. I have always been a bit squeamish about skating on ponds and lakes, but I am thankful for the large number of communities that flood park rinks, removing the worry about thin ice. When outdoor skating conditions don’t appeal, there are several indoor rinks that offer public skating.

For those inspired to try a learn-to-skate class, the Portland Ice Arena, Family Ice Center in Falmouth and Biddeford Ice Arena all offer formal lessons. Classes are geared for basic elements in figure skating and hockey skills. And if you remember watching the Olympic skating competitions as a girl and were inspired to try it but never did, take an adult class. I have thoroughly enjoyed my learn-to-skate experience at Portland Ice Arena. I give a lot of credit to my teens for being good sports about cheering me on with my slower learning curve (they are five levels — and many skate skills — ahead of me now).

My family has come a long way since our days of floppy skates and milk crates, yet we have many fond memories of those early years on the ice together. But no matter your skating level or whether you skate indoors or out, it definitely helps make a less snowy — but cold — winter more fun.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: