Updated: Feb 7, 2021
If you live in Montreal, you have probably walked through or past a park with a public outdoor rink and thought to yourself “that looks like so much fun!” Well this is your sign to get outside and go skating! Whether you already know how to skate or are looking to get into it, I’m here to share everything you need to know about skating; where you can go, what kind of skates to get, how to sharpen them, and how to skate!
WHERE TO SKATE:
Chances are there’s a park within a 15 minute distance from you right now, and even more likely that the park has an outdoor rink set up.
In Montreal: Click here to see an official list of Montreals local outdoor rinks!
On the list you’ll see a description of the type of rink it is, if it has been cleared and resurfaced, and how smooth the surface is. “Boards” will mean the ice surface is enclosed by a wall, and “open surface” refers to a rink that is open to the ground around it. “Cleared” will mean if the snow is shovelled off or not, and “resurfaced” means whether or not the ice has been smoothed over to have few bumps and carves in the ice. If you’re just starting out, I recommend finding a rink with boards to lean on if you need a break and resurfaced ice so it’ll be smoother to have an easier time finding your balance.
Outside of Monteal: There are a few skating trails through the woods that come to mind that are definitely worth the trip to if ever you get the chance.
Domaine de la Foret Perdue in Trois-Rivieres
Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Ontario
Lac Esterel in the Laurentides
Parc des Pionniers in Saint-Donat
Bois de Belle Riviere in Mirabel
TIPS TO SKATING:
If you’re just starting out, understand that you will may feel unstable at first. But don’t panic! Make sure you keep your knees soft (don’t lock your knees), keep your shoulders over your hips, and your toes pointed outwards (stand like a duck). With your body positioned as such, transfer your weight onto one leg to lift your alternate leg up and forwards. Imagine yourself marching in a marching band, try to get your knee’s up every step! Keep your arms extended to the sides of you to help you find your balance, and keep your head up and eyes forward (looking down at the ice and your skates will make balancing harder). It might feel silly, but this will help you find movement on the ice. Once you feel comfortable with the walking motion, remember to keep your toes pointed out like a duck and with each step forward and in the same movement, extend your other leg straight behind you to push you forward. Remember, keep your knees soft and you’ll be skating before you know it!
If you want to stop, learn to do a T-stop. With one skate continuing forward, keep your shoulders pointed in the direction you’re going, and use your other skate blade to drag on the ice behind you. Start with your dragging skate about a foot behind you, and by the time you stop, try to have your dragging skate touching your forward skate at a perpendicular angle. Keep all your body weight on the skate continuing moving forward, because if you transfer your weight onto the skate dragging, you’ll lose your balance! At the end of your stop, if done correctly, your feet will be in the shape of a T with one skate pointed forward, and the other perpendicular behind it.
TYPES OF SKATES:
Luckily there’s only two different types of user-friendly skates to get into; hockey skates or figure skates. I’ll help you break down the pro’s and con’s of each and tips on how to choose. I’ll also recommend what kind there are of each and give you a price range. But please!!! Do not!!! Buy!! Skates from Canadian Tire, Walmart, or local sports stores!!! I'll talk about where you should buy them down below. Actually, sports stores may have a fair choice of beginner level skates, but make sure you do your research and read the reviews.
Figure skates: These skates provide balance and support from their natural tight fit, flat blade shape and toe pick. Figure skates can be an easy option to chose to start learning in because of these features. But be careful, those toe picks can sneak up and catch you off guard. Just be care when skating that you fully pick up your foot and to not drag your toes! Because these skates are tighter fit, you’ll need to wear thin cotton socks (or of similar material). Thicker socks can cut off the circulation to your feet and your feet will actually become colder! If you want to keep your toes warm with figure skates, find yourself some insulated boot covers or leg warmers.
How to Buy: There is a wide range of quality and price to figure skates. I’ve linked here an article which will help you break down how to choose your skates. A recommendation would be to budget a pair of between $100-300 for beginner to intermediate levels. Skates under $100 will likely provide poor ankle and arch support and break down after a couple years. Also, the blade will most likely have no shape to it, making it harder to balance and sharpen. You can find good skates from the figure skate brand Jackson or Riedell. You can find these on Amazon. A tip to finding good skates, the boot should be entirely white or black, and the soul of the boot should be brown for white skates, and black for black skates.
With figure skates, it is important to have the skate fitted to your foot. Make sure the boot is not too big (If your ankle moves around when you step, it’s too big!) and it is tied as tight as you can. Further, if you get a more advanced boot, this will require you to go into a figure skating shop and find a specialist to heat the boot for it to mold to the shape of your foot. Be prepared to sit around for a while to let the boot shape properly. Figure skates need to be tight, if you want something looser, go with a pair of hockey skates.
Hockey Skates: Besides being looser fit, these boots are commonly lighter weight and more sturdy. And because of how loose they can be tied, you can wear some thicker socks on colder days. With hockey skates having rounded edges on both the toe and heal, you’ll find more control when you try to turn or stop. However because of the shape of the blade, these skates can be a bit more unstable to stand in. These skates are more user friendly if you’re trying to go shoot a few pucks during pick-up hockey, but hockey skates may be good to fit once you’ve had a few try’s on figure skates to find your balance.
How to Buy: Hockey skates tend have more support for entry level skates at a lower price. But similarly to figure skates, plan to budget between $100-300 for beginner to intermediate skates. If you go lower, you will still run the risk of having a lower quality skate, but you may hold onto them for a longer time. You can find hockey skates a lot easier than figure skates, check out shops like Sport au Gus or Play it Again Sports
Blades: Both figure skates and hockey skates can have different types of blades. With cheaper figure skates, the blade will usually come with the skate boot. However if you have a higher budget, you can buy your boot and blades separately for a better fit to your skating level and style. However buying a blade separate from the skate will require you to get it mounted at a figure skating shop. Hockey skates have automatically have blades riveted to the boot, but a higher budget will allow for a selection of a certain boot and blade combination. Find here a breakdown of what goes into a blade.
Every year you should have your skates sharpened. Both hockey skates and figure skates have a particular way they need to be sharpened, so find a local shop that specializes in the type of skate you chose. Estimate between $8-$20 for a sharpening. Hockey skates require a flatter edge and figure skates require a deeper hollow to the outside and inside edges. Check the link on blades to understand what this means. You can get both types of skates sharpened at any type of sharpening facility, but be cautious because the operators of the sharpener may not understand what type of sharpening you need or want. Speciality hockey or figure skating shops focus on specific sharpening for a reason.
Hockey skates: Sport Au Gus is a great store for hockey sharpening and general hockey equipment close to downtown in NDG on Sherbrooke O.
Figure skates: Maison Du Patin Laframboise is a hotspot for all levels of skaters from beginner to professionals to get accessories and services tailored to figure skating. This store is located in Saint-Leonard and by appointment only, so book in advanced before making the trip there!
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this article, you are destined to start skating! Use this information to help you find a place to skate and what kind of skates are for you. But if you need more help about specific types of skates and where to find them, either visit the mentioned stores above or google ‘local skate store’ and they will be glad to help you! Whether you chose hockey or figure skates, you’ll have the time of your life. And hey, maybe you’re a born natural and you’ll become the next olympic champion?
A former competitive figure skater