Eau Claire Gets Icy

from outdoor rinks to indoor lessons, ice skating opportunities abound

Briana Novacek

Winter After Hours - Boyd Park, Eau Claire
Winter After Hours - Boyd Park, Eau Claire

With the Olympics starting in Sochi in just a few days, winter sports are on everyone’s minds. There is certainly no shortage of places to skate it up in the Chippewa Valley. As far as outdoor rinks, there are six well-known options in Eau Claire: Boyd Rink, Roosevelt Rink, Pinehurst Rink, Putnam Heights Rink, Demmler Rink, and Sam Davey Rink. All are raring for icy business from the day after Christmas until it’s too warm for the ice to be, well, ice. And if “just skating” seems a little passé to you, there are various events that combine skating with other activities. For example, Winter After Hours, sponsored by the Eau Claire Parks and Recreation Department and Volume One, is held on Thursday nights at Boyd Park. Kiddos and adults alike can enjoy ice skating, snow shoeing, winter kubb, a fire pit, music, and drinks to warm the heart, with free admission. This event would be a great one for that friend who refuses to believe that winter is fun.

If you’re looking for even more, head to Pinehurst Park for an updated winter experience. As a result of recent renovations, the park now has both a general skating rink and a boarded hockey rink, while the hill offers opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding.

If you’re not quite sure how metal blades are supposed to keep you upright on the ice, the Eau Claire Figure Skating Club helps people of all ages learn to skate.

“But what if I want to skate, but I still don’t like the cold?” you whine. Well, no need to fret, nervous one. There are plenty of ways to skate indoors, too. Hobbs Ice Center provides a place for “safe, healthy, wholesome, affordable, family fun,” according to its website. Skating at Hobbs can be great for those who want to escape the biting, northerly winds (which have been especially biting as of late), but it is also a great option for those who don’t want the skating season to be shortened.

UWEC has a synchronized skating team as well, the Goldenettes, which competes at the open collegiate level as a club sport and sometimes performing at half time during hockey games.

If you’re not quite sure how metal blades are supposed to keep you upright on the ice, the Eau Claire Figure Skating Club helps people of all ages learn to skate. Their Learn to Skate program starts with little 3-year-olds and progresses up through eight levels that teach specific skills necessary for skating well. According to their website, “the curriculum keeps skaters enthusiastic about learning from the time they begin lessons until the time they reach their goals.”  The instructors are all registered instructors with U.S. Figure Skating.

Christina Wolff teaches figure skating at Hobbs in Eau Claire, and once a week in Black River Falls. She teaches about three times per week at Hobbs with all age groups, from toddlers who can barely walk on the ice to high school or college students who’ve been skating for years. Learn to Skate offers group lessons for beginners with about 50 students at once, and then usually private, one-on-one lessons with a coach once a student reach a more proficient level. Learn to Skate is really about learning the basics for a variety of age groups, with some making their way to jumps and spins and other moves eventually. Adult skaters also take classes in the Learn to Skate program.

Wolff fell in love with skating as a Girl Scout, then got involved with Learn to Skate and made her way up from there. She did learn to skate until moving to Eau Claire from California as an 8-year-old. She does a little outdoor skating, but not too much. She reminisces about skating on the homemade rink that her dad made in the backyard when she was a kid and occasional skating on bumpy lakes.

Wolff says that there are different competitions throughout the area with plenty to choose from, including the 21st Annual Eau Claire Figure Skating Competition in March. They include both individual competition and synchronized skating, which Wolff describes as “marching band on ice.” Eau Claire has two synchronized skating teams of its own that compete.

What’s Wolff’s favorite part about teaching? “When you’re working with somebody who really loves skating and you can tell,” she says, “and they just are super excited to be there and they’re super excited when they master a new skill, like a new jump or spin, and to see them get better with your help and on their own, too.” Wolff also really enjoys the artistic side of skating, and says it’s exciting to see students catch on to the emotion and expression of skating as they increase in age and ability. She hopes to get the word out about skating and get more people in the area involved in the wintry sport.

To learn more about the Eau Claire Figure Skating Club, visit ecfigureskate.org. For hours of operation and other information about Eau Claire’s outdoor skating rinks, visit http://tinyurl.com/ECrinks.