Saturday, June 29, 2013

So, You're in LTS and You Want to Skate a Freestyle Session

So, you're in Learn to Skate and you want to practice your new skills, but you find public ice just too crowded.  You've heard of this mysterious thing called 'freestyle' ice, where there's only a handful of skaters on it. So you check the schedule, you pay the fee and you get on Freestyle Ice.

Oops! Maybe you shouldn't be there.
Sadly for you, you've just violated one of the sacred rules of figure skating. As a skater for you to get on Freestyle Ice one of 4 things needs to happen:
1. You have passed Basic 8 (or Delta in ISI)
2. If you have not passed Basic 8 or Delta, you are in lesson with a coach
3. A coach (probably the skating director) has approved you to skate on freestyle sessions even though you're in LTS (I don't know how rare this is, but it doesn't seem to be frequent)
4. In some rinks (apparently training rinks) you have to get the skating director's approval to go on freestyle

The skaters on a freestyle session are relying on all the other skaters to know freestyle etiquette, be able to skate and observe the other skaters, and be able to avoid other skaters.  If you don't have good heads-up skills and good stopping skills, you can irritate the heck out of the other skaters and maybe be a safety hazard.

If you are in LTS and you don't understand the problem list below, that's an indicator you shouldn't be on freestyle.

1. You don't yield properly to skaters in program or lessons
2. You hang around harness alley
3. You hog the lutz circle.
4. You can't stop quickly enough
5. You don't have a sense of where the other skaters are headed and you get in their way

I've never seen a figure skater kicked off a freestyle session for not being qualified, though I suppose it does happen. Coaches will not talk to you in case you are another coach's student, so don't look for any help there. Initially people will be polite and avoid you, but eventually they'll get frustrated with you in the way. What may happen is some of the other skaters will find you an irritant and may do, shall we say, ice bullying to get you off.  They may skate really close to you, they may spin in your path, they may jump close to you, or try other ways to physically intimidate you to get you to leave.
If you can't play by the freestyle rules, they want you gone
This is not bullying of one freestyle skater by another (bad enough in itself) but bullying of someone who doesn't know the rules, and doesn't belong on the session. It's their only way of letting you know you don't belong. Because:

"The skaters on a freestyle session are relying on all the other skaters to know freestyle etiquette, be able to skate and observe the other skaters, and be able to avoid other skaters. " You are a danger to them, and their polite actions to avoid you means they waste precious training time, so eventually they get more forceful.

So you're frustrated with the ice tourists getting in your way? Multiply that by 10 and you have the frustration of a freestyle skater avoiding your LTS self.

Yeah, frustrating, but you'll have to keep practicing on public for a while longer.

And before you cry 'It's unfair!', there are certain sessions I avoid because they have a higher proportion of high level skaters. So, even in freestyle, there's divisions.


  1. One of the rinks where I skate has freestyle divided by levels. They include Pre-freestyle for those who haven't passed the tests yet, though more advanced skaters are permitted on the ice if it is not full. However, they must yield to the skaters actually "rated" to be on that ice. It mostly works, but then again, nobody doing triples will deign to skate on that ice.

    1. I've found sessions at my rink have a 'personality'. For some reason Saturday sessions *tend* to have lower freestyle skaters, and afternoon weekday sessions attracts higher freestyle skaters.

  2. For our rink you need to be in LTS or taking private lessons but you do not have to be at a certain level in LTS. Personally, it terrifies me but now that I'm taking private lessons and pay for the whole session I'm trying to make use of all of it.

  3. My local rink allows skaters who have passed Basic Skills Level 4 and up on during the Freestyle sessions. I assume that translates to having passed Adult 2 (3 under the new scale?). I just went to the adult only "public" skate session last week and there were only 8 skaters total. All seemed to be aware of the other skaters. The rink sets little cones on the 4 dots around the center hockey circle (I don't know hockey rink terms) during all public sessions to set that area off for skaters working on spins, etc.

  4. I go to two rinks. One is part of the Skating Club of Boston and that one gets crowded on weekends even in freestyle sessions. The other is where I usually practice and is much emptier. Generally only 3-4 skaters and their coach. My coach let me skate on freestyle sessions when I had to prepare for a competition in Basic 5. I'm not an adult by the way, but I am older than most of the other 10 year olds at the rink working on pre preliminary moves and free skate.