Even if you're an Alpine or Nordic skier, hockey enthusiast, speed skater, devotee of the bobsleigh or luge or any of the other Winter Olympics sports, you have to acknowledge that figure skating may be the most demanding discipline of all those on display at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
To test this, try to imagine a figure skater participating in any of the above sports, or launching themselves off a ski jump, or out of a half-pipe on a snowboard. Sure, there might be some mighty impressive crashes and spills, but you can visualize a figure skater soon learning the basics and progressing from there.
Now, try to visualize the gold, silver or bronze medalists in any other winter sport landing a triple salchow, a triple toe loop, a triple lutz and a bunch of other impressive moves -- all in about the time it takes an Alpine skier to rocket the length of a downhill course. Can you see that in your mind's eye? No? Didn't think so.
Nobody is saying a figure skater could excel in another winter sport to the point that they could contend for the podium. But their mastery of self, space and time predisposes them to grasp the fundamentals in, say, ski jumping and snowboarding. The demands of their training regimens likewise afford them a foundation in endurance that would serve them well in skiing and hockey -- along with the subtle fast-twitch neuromuscular wiring demanded by the sledding sports.
You might say that figure skating is a good place from which to begin the pursuit of all your winter sporting ambitions. But how to start figure skating?
The Polar Express Skating School presents the most immediate opportunity to begin learning how to figure skate. Offered at both the Madison Ice Arena, 725 Forward Dr., and Hartmeyer Ice Arena, 1834 Commercial Ave., the progressive curriculum begins with an age-based hierarchy of introductory classes: Snowplow Sam, which introduces ages 4-6 to skating basics; and a three-level Basic class that teaches the fundamentals of ice skating to ages 7-13. From these fundamentals, figure-skating students can then progress to the more advanced skills taught in Basic 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 -- leading them to a Freestyle class where they can learn yet more advanced figure-skating skills.
The curriculum also includes a four-level class progression in figure-skating basics for adults.
Hartmeyer's second winter class session began last week, with remaining 30-minute classes scheduled for Sunday mornings, Feb. 7, 21 and 28, March 7 and 21; and Thursday mornings, Jan. 28-Feb. 25.
This winter's second series of Polar Express Skating School classes are also underway at Madison Ice Arena, continuing Monday evenings through March 8, Tuesday mornings through March 2 and Saturday mornings, Jan. 30 and Feb. 13-March 6.
For specific class times, registration fees and to check the availability of class openings, check online or call 277-8922.
Among local options, Capitol Skating School may afford the most seamless progression from the basics to more advanced skills. With a student-teacher ratio of four or five to one, its beginning classes accommodate ages 3 to adult in a relaxed setting that emphasizes fun while introducing newcomers and recreation enthusiasts to the fundamentals.
From basics including balance and coordinated maneuvering forward and backward on the ice, the Capitol Skating School curriculum progresses by increments to introduce controlled stops, turns and crossovers. From there, those interested in building on the fundamentals of figure skating can enroll in additional classes to learn spins and single-rotation jumps, and continue on to competitive senior freeskating and private lessons.
The school's next available class sessions begin April 9 at Middleton's Capitol Ice Center, 2615 Evergreen Rd. For class schedules, registration and more information, are check online, or call Tricia Ballweg at 833-3922.