I entertain two winter loves: skiing and ice skating. Breckenridge Ski Resort attracts a ton of skiers and riders, but I can’t help but notice how few people ice skate, relatively speaking.

When I was a competitive ice skater in Chicago, I daydreamed of being the only skater on a clean sheet of ice for more than 2 or so minutes; my perfect imagined date involved my boyfriend surprising me by renting out our local rink for a half hour — even if it were at 1 a.m., when rates dropped (never happened). Almost every day, as the Zamboni cleared the ice, I’d rush down the stairs to the rink door, trying to be the first one to step onto the ice (at least 10 other girls had the same desire, so maybe once every two weeks, I’d snag the virgin step). I would cherish those 30 seconds, when I stroked a quarter-way around the rink without anyone else in sight — until literally 30 other girls swarmed the ice, carving it with jumps and spins.

Kimberly Nicoletti (yeah, that’d be me) skating at one of Stephen C. West Ice Arena’s winter shows.

Breckenridge skating

Here in Breckenridge, I’ve skated my dream without even having to rent the Stephen C. West Ice Arena; while some public skating sessions are rockin’ (especially on don’t-miss disco nights — silver ball and all), other public sessions allow skaters to glide along smooth ice with relatively few people (usually morning sessions — wait, did I say that? No — no, go in the evenings when it’s more crowded — I mean, more “exciting”).

Skating without crowds is akin to making powder turns through quiet trees — it’s exhilarating.

Some kids, and adults, get hooked beyond public skating sessions and take either group or private lessons. Then, they practice during “freestyle sessions” dedicated completely to them. And therein lies another beauty of skating in Breckenridge: A fraction of skaters take the ice at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena, compared to city rinks. It’s not because there’s something wrong with high-elevation ice (though you will get a great cardio workout when you really learn how to skate) or Breck’s rink; it’s simply that with so much winter recreation available, people sometimes overlook the magic of figure skating.

(Of course, hockey still lures guys — and women — into the rink, even at ungodly early hours of the morning, but I cannot speak unbiasedly about this breed of skaters. As a figure skater, I had one of those love/hate relationships with hockey players: I “hated” them, because their sharp blades hacked up ice, but, as a young, TEENAGE skater, I had to admit, most hockey guys were pretty cute — and they could Skate. I digress, but it’s only to make this point: Hockey tends to be strong at any rink, and Stephen C. West is no different.)

Chelsea Dymond, who learned to skate at Stephen C. West Ice Arena, snagged first at a recent World ISI competition. Photo by Bonnie Kirchoff.

But figure skating’s popularity waxes and wanes. No one educates parents about the valuable life skills skating teaches kids: Most people don’t realize the level of confidence it instills in students as they learn to compete and express themselves in shows; one Denver coach I know (Amy Schneider) says her students possess great public speaking skills because they’ve gained confidence through shows and competitions.

Skating also requires incredible discipline; it takes commitment and hard work to learn edge work, jumps and spins. Beyond emotional and social benefits, skating keeps bodies limber and strong and instills a sense of balance and kinesthesia that lasts a lifetime.

Plus, it’s a blast. Few other sports combine strength, grace, artistry, balance, cardio ability, performance and playfulness like skating does.

Breck’s Learn To Skate

Stephen C. West Ice Arena’s Learn-To-Skate program offers group lessons for all ages — and it’s also where those little-rascal, future hockey players start out.

Local skaters from the Stephen C. West Ice Arena placed at the 2010 World ISI Championships.

The next session starts the week of Jan. 15, with 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. classes every Tuesday and 6:45 p.m. classes every Friday. Lessons are $10 a class with advanced registration, or $13.50 for drop ins. Private lessons are also available.

Skating parties

The rink also throws great birthday parties, where the birthday boy or girl and friends get the whole rink to themselves — along with cake and pizza (yes, I want a 10-year-old birthday party DO OVER).

For more information, call (970) 547-9974. To invite me to an exclusive rink birthday party, email me; I promise I’ll behave myself as a guest and try not to be the first one to step onto the ice.

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About The Author

Kimberly Nicoletti always knew she was meant to escape gray Chicago winters and spend her days skiing the Colorado Rockies. So, two months after she turned 18, she moved to Breckenridge to be a ski bum "for a season," assuring her parent's she'd return to Illinois to finish college. But, the ski bum life stuck. After three years of full-time skiing in Summit County, she decided to finish her degree at CU-Boulder in Creative Writing (granted, she took a semester off to ski). Once free of classes, she took yet another year off to ski in Summit (do you see a pattern here?). Then, she moved back to Boulder to earn her master's degree in Somatic Psychology/Dance Therapy. Upon graduation, she spent a winter teaching skiing at Mammoth Mountain. (Surely you see the pattern now.) In 2002, she moved back to Summit full time, to work at the Summit Daily as the arts and entertainment editor. She stayed with the company for 10 years, enjoying Summit's great events and later working as the managing editor of magazines covering the High Country. She still revolves her life around adventure and creativity, taking time to travel, ski, paddleboard, dance, ice skate, play with her dogs, learn new things and generally enjoy life. She's highly addicted to powder skiing and keeps her winter mornings commitment-free so she can indulge in "deep play" when Mother Nature cooperates. Off the mountain, she's a freelance writer and editor and teaches fitness and mind/body classes throughout Summit County.

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