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Maribel Vinson
December 22, 1958
Maribel Vinson, winner of 15 national titles, explains the ABCs of a fast-growing pastime
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December 22, 1958

First Of Two Parts: The Joyous Art Of Figure Skating

Maribel Vinson, winner of 15 national titles, explains the ABCs of a fast-growing pastime

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Every Wednesday a number of housewives gather at the Boston Arena, lace on their skates and advance confidently across the ice for a lesson with Maribel Vinson. Most of these women never had skates on before, yet by now they are gliding as gracefully as the teen-ager at right. A few of Miss Vinson's pupils come to work off excess pounds, but most just want to join their families in the fun of skating. They could hardly find a better teacher, for Maribel Vinson has trained half a dozen champions, including the incomparable Tenley Albright, and 3,500 recreational skaters in the last 15 years. Now, on the following pages she explains the simple steps that can enable anyone to enjoy themselves on the ice. Then, in the January 5 issue, she shows how to mold these basic steps into the delightful art of pair skating in which any two people of average ability can have more than twice as much fun by skating together.


To make the fastest progress and get the most pleasure out of skating you must have boots which give plenty of support to your heels and ankles. Contrary to a commonly accepted notion, it has been proved over and over again that there is no such thing as "weak ankles" when you have properly fitting boots. You may have to spend a few dollars more, but there's no point in trying to stand upright on a thin edge of steel without support. Good readymade boots cost between $18 and $25 and the blades are $10. To insure a proper fit follow the instructions carefully and begin by insisting that the salesman allow you to try the boots on without the blades. Since you need a boot that fits snugly, throw away the heavy socks, for they won't keep your feet warm and will only cramp your toes: women should wear their nylons and men their ordinary socks.

Slip into the boot and lace it up as shown in the illustration below. Make sure that even though you lace the boot very tightly over the instep, there is a gap of 1½ to 2 inches between the holes, for the leather eventually will stretch. When you stand up, your toes should lightly touch but not press against the end of the boot, and there should be enough breadth across the toes so that you can wiggle them easily. Keeping your heels on the floor, bend your knees and ankles as far forward as you can. Check to see that there are no pronounced bulges or wrinkles around the ankle and across the instep, then rise up on your toes and make sure that your heels do not budge out of the heel pocket. If the boot is correctly made you should experience a strong feeling of support along the inside of the ankle and through the heel.

Now you are ready to have the blades attached. They are quite different from hockey-skate blades, which have a flat surface. A figure blade is ground with a hollow groove down the middle. It is the edges, ground like a fine cutting tool, that border this groove that facilitate turning and allow the skater who masters them to trace precise patterns on the ice.

Skating has a language of its own, and it will save you a lot of confusion if you learn it before stepping out on the ice.

First, the skating foot is the foot on the ice; the free foot is the foot in the air. Dividing the body down the middle, each part of the body corresponding to the skating foot is called the skating arm, the skating shoulder, the skating hip, etc. Each part corresponding to the free foot is labeled the free arm, the free shoulder, the free hip, etc.

Second, as is shown in the illustration below left, the edge of the blade that corresponds to the outside of the foot is called an outside edge; the other an inside edge. Remember, you've got a right and left foot, therefore there are really four edges on a pair of skates. These are a right and left outside edge and a right and left inside edge.

Third, the term forward or backward when applied to the edge of a skate means the direction in which you are going. When applied to a member of the body, forward means toward the front of the body, backward means behind the body. If we state that the skating arm is forward, we mean that regardless of the particular direction in which you are moving the skating arm is in front of the body.

In the more complicated figures these movements are often designated by combining the three factors and abbreviating. For example, the letters ROF mean that the skater is on the right foot, outside edge,-moving forward. For the simple steps shown in this lesson, however, each word will be spelled out fully. On the page opposite, we show how to take the first uncertain steps. Then, on page 46, you begin your first skating strokes.

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