Take some lessons then hit the slope, rink with confidence
On a recent Sunday afternoon at the bottom of the Boyce Park ski slope, class was in session.
Students listened as instructors took the time to discuss everything from how the equipment works to how to turn to the proper stance when heading down the hill.
It was one of the many learn-to-ski classes at the park in Plum.
Even though we’ve had some warm days, it’s still winter in Pittsburgh and that means an opportunity to learn to ski or snowboard or ice skate.
“This was my first time learning to ski,” says Kanaka Vantaku of Oakdale, after the lesson. “It was tremendous. It wasn’t easy, but I will definitely come back again. I am here with family members. This is something we can all do together.”
His wife Sandhya was also learning to ski. She says this was a huge step for her. His brother Satya Vantaku of McDonald was also there and says skiing requires balance.
“The hardest part is you have to learn to get up once you fall down,” he says.
His wife Vijaya Lekkala says it gets easier the more you practice and you can’t be afraid of falling.
Boyce Park is a great place to learn because there is a hill that’s not very steep, says John Peterson, snow sports school director. There is a magic carpet that takes skiers to the top as well as the ski lift. It is not mandatory to take a lesson, but it is recommended, Peterson says. Lessons run through middle of March.
Ski instructors there are certified through Professional Ski Instructors of America. All of the lessons follow the same curriculum so it’s consistent.
“Skiing is such a good time,” Peterson says. “It’s a skill you can use your entire lifetime. The best words to hear are after a lesson are ‘I am coming back.’”
Helmets are suggested he says and individuals are encouraged to wear hats and gloves and waterproof clothing.
“Because, you can fall,” Peterson says. “It is great exercise, you get to enjoy the outdoors and you make lifelong friends.”
As the Zamboni exited the now-smooth ice rink, youngsters entered.
They skated in for a lesson at Kirk S. Nevin Ice Arena in Greensburg.
“A lot of kids want to play hockey and we tell them they need to learn to skate before they can play hockey,” says Trudy Ivory, facility manager for the City of Greensburg Recreation Department, which includes the ice rink, Veterans’ Memorial Pool and Lynch Field Complex. “When you see someone skating it looks effortless, but it’s not. It takes time to learn how to skate. We tell them they will fall, but they will learn to get up and not be afraid of falling. Skating lessons are important because they can teach kids self esteem and a sense of accomplishment.”
Lessons run Thursdays through mid-March.
“I really like skating,” says Samantha Yothers, 10, of Greensburg. “The instructors make it fun, and they don’t yell. I have fallen, but I’ve learned to get up because I want to get better. It’s also good exercise.”
Seeing an individual progress on the ice is fulfilling says Bob Mock, skating director at Alpha Ice Complex in Harmarville, who has taught skating to everyone from beginners to international-level competitors.
“I love to watch their development,” Mock says. “I love teaching all levels.
He says if you have never skated, find a rink that has a good basic skills program and go and watch the instructors and see how they teach.
“I would say a learn to skate class is better than a private lesson to start,” says Mock. “Because there is an enthusiasm in class and they all learn together.”
Learning to skate was pretty easy for Sophia Feng, 10, of Aspinwall after a Friday night session.
“I love skating and feeling the wind blowing in my face,” Feng says. “When you skate around you feel like you’ve accomplished something. It is fun. I have made lots of friends here. You can skate your entire life. I think lessons are good because I want to keep getting better at skating.”
Ice skating tips
Don’t look down : It’s amazing how many people starting out in skating spend all their time looking at their feet rather than in the direction they are going. Instead, keep your head up and look in front of you so at least you can see who or what you are about to collide with!
Get some good skates : If you’re stepping out for the first time, then those rental skates available at most centers will be fine. But if you get the skating bug and decide to take it up, buy a decent pair of skates that will last and most importantly, fit well and provide good support.
Tie skates the correct way : The right skates for you will not be the correct ones if they are tied incorrectly. Make sure your skates are not too tight or your feet will likely go numb, while having your skates too loose will not provide the proper support for your ankles.
Warm up slowly : Given that skating takes place generally in a cold arena, then your muscles are initially going to be cold. Prior to skating, it’s not really wise to just throw your leg over a barrier and start stretching. Stretching in a cold environment can lead to muscle tears, so wrap up well (but not as to restrict your movement) and start with some bending and work up to stretching.
Get some lessons : If you really want to master the basics, then taking some lessons is an absolute must. Take a few group lessons which are available at most rinks and for a variety of ages. Also take a friend along, as learning with someone will help you relax on the ice.
Don’t lean backwards : Leaning back will likely send you flying on your backside or worse. The best advice is to keep your knees bent and your weight forward. Hold your arms out in front of you and open them wide to help you stay balanced.
Skate in the correct direction : While initially the direction you are skating may not be of your choosing, there is usually a directional rule to follow on the ice, either clockwise or vice-versa. Don’t try skating the wrong way round the ice rink as you’ll end up hurting others and quite possibly yourself.
Make use of temporary rinks : If you are not fortunate enough to have a skating rink near you, then make the most of temporary ice rinks if one pops up near you.
Don’t take it too seriously : When you fall down (and you will), have a laugh about it and get right back up on your skates again. Don’t take yourself or your skating too seriously, after all, even the best end up on their backs from time to time. It’s even funnier if you do it in style!
Ski equipment you need : Getting a good idea of the equipment used for skiing will help you understand the sport a lot better, and it will make your first days on the slopes a lot easier.
Ski rental equipment : When you’re a beginning skier or just trying out the sport to decide if it’s the right one for you, it makes sense to rent ski equipment.
What to wear skiing : If you aren’t sure what to wear skiing, it’s best to start with the basics and then move on to the accessories.
Learn to ski videos : There are free skiing instruction videos to help you get on and off a ski lift and magic carpet and to develop essential skiing techniques.
Learn to snowplow : The traditional learning stance for beginning skiers is called the snowplow position. You’ll need to use the snowplow to slow down and to stop, so it’s one of the first techniques you should learn.
Point your way down the slope : When you move up from the snowplow turn, you can learn to begin a more advanced way of turning your skis by pointing with your arm.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.