leren schaatsen thialf

Ice skating: learn how to ice skate from the Dutch

Ice skating is probably the most Dutch thing there is. One glance at the medal tally of the Olympic Wintergames in Sochy will show you that no one even comes close to the Dutch speed skaters. I have never learned how to ice skate myself. But I do want to participate in the greatest ice skating race in the world: the Elfstedentocht. So there was only one thing left to do: we asked the trainers of the biggest ice skating ring in the Netherlands, Thialf Heerenveen, to help us out. And they did: Dennis Schuurman himself, the manager of the ice skating school in Thialf answered all our questions, which we posted here. So now you too can skate like a pro in no-time.

What are the most common mistakes when learning how to ice skate?

Most people want to go too fast. Not just with the movements, but also with gear: they will buy the most expensive skates out there, which doesn’t do you any good as a beginner. Al you need is a sharp blade. Beginners also always want to get moving, without taking the time to get the skating stance right. In our experience, most people benefit hugely from learning a correct ice skating stance first. Their balance and stability improve greatly.

ice skating stance

Keep your weight on the back of your foot, allowing you to glide over the ice. Keep your head up and shoulders loose. Bend the knees. Image from deschaatssport.nl

Where should the focus of any ice skating beginner be?

In chronological order:
1. Ice skating stance
2. Balancing your weight above your center of gravity (the skate)
3. Steering the skate (turning it inward)
4. Transfer your weight to the next skate on the last moment.

how to ice skate

Flickr.com

What does progress look like? What exercises are useful and in what order?

The best thing any beginner can do is practice with gliding in the ice skating stance, on both legs. A second great exercise is stepping: stand in the stance and push with the right foot twice. Then twice with the left foot, and so on. If you manage that, you can try ice skating on one skate. After that, try steering while gliding. So not by pushing with your skates, but by shifting your balance (much like riding a bike).

What type of skates should a beginner buy?

Don’t buy the most expensive skates you can find. Learning how to ice skate is easiest on touring skates (or: Nordic skates) with very sharp blades.

Dennis Schuurman is the manager of the skate school of Thialf Heerenveen. With years of experience, he helped hundreds of people feel confident on the ice. Thialf is widely known as the Ice Skating Temple of the World, called home by some of the best ice skaters in history.

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