Ice skating can be scary for first-timers, and a few falls are to be expected. However, Sports Beijing coach Mark Simon advises beginners not to lose hope: “Be patient, don’t get discouraged the first time you fall down, and get some coaching.” He also offers three basic pointers: “Bend your knees, lean slightly forward and keep your head up.” Follow this sage advice and get your skating stars-to-be off to a good start by signing up for classes. Try Shunyi’s Ice Zone or Solana’s All Star Champion Skating Club for a range of private and group lessons for beginners as young as 3. With some protective gear and the right training, your kids will be skating, twirling and shredding the ice in no time.
The Ice Zone
The Ice Zone’s rink is the perfect size for learners – big enough for ice hockey, but not so large as to intimidate. It also has a great atmosphere, friendly English-speaking staff, and two professional in-house coaches. Austrian-born Clemens Jonas (speaks English, Chinese and German) specializes in ice skating, while Shan Lianhai (speaks Chinese and English) coaches ice hockey.
Coach Jonas has been ice skating for over 20 years and coaching for over two. After skating in the US, Jonas has acquired a teaching style that mixes American and European methods. Very young skaters must “learn how to walk all over again,” Jonas explains. “And early learners must learn how to stand and walk in their skates off-ice and then on-ice.”
In the early stages, whatever the age, Jonas stresses that fun is the most crucial component. “Beginners need to have fun; it doesn’t work without them having fun.” At higher levels, he warns, “I become more strict with my students.”
Students of all ages and levels may enroll in one of the rink’s numerous programs. The Basics Skills Skating program, a class for beginners, emphasizes fun while building fundamental techniques for skating, hockey and recreational skating. As skaters advance, they may join the Jump and Spin class, where students learn the basic points of figure skating.
For skaters who have basic skills but are in need of a confidence boost or just an expressive outlet, the Ice Zone offers a performance class in the summer and winter. After 11 weeks of training, these stars shine for their friends and families in shows, such as “High School Musical on Ice” and “Madagascar on Ice.”
Hockey players may choose from an assortment of classes: Power Skating, Advanced Skating, 3-on-3 games, and the competitive Sports Beijing’s Imperial Guard team (led by Coach Simon). Power Skating improves the conditioning, speed and agility of beginner to intermediate players.
While your kids are training to become the next Alexei Yagudin (Russian Olympic champion ice skater) or Sidney Crosby (Canada’s up-and-coming hockey player), adventurous moms and dads can take part in Adult Learn-to-Skate classes, Men’s or Women’s Hockey and Adult 3-on-3 hockey games.
Non-skating parents can stay warm and cozy in the rink’s adjoining lounge, which supplies drinks and snacks. The lounge comes equipped with a children’s play area stocked with books and toys. Ice Zone also hosts birthday parties, offering five different packages that include catering.
All Star Champion Skating Club
All Star Champion Skating Club was founded by Wang Rui, figure-skating gold medalist of the 1999 Asian Winter Games, and Li Ning, the legendary gymnast who lit the torch at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. Located on the first floor of Solana Mall, the 800sqm rink uses equipment that meets international standards.
Students may choose from a variety of beginner and advanced ice skating and hockey classes. In addition, off-ice and dancing lessons are ideal for those who are fearful of falling. Timid skaters often start with off-ice lessons, where they can improve their core strength and conditioning without the risk of injury. Dancing classes use choreography and music to get little ones used to the basic movements. It also forms a solid foundation for both ice skaters and hockey players alike.
Most coaches only speak Chinese, but some English-speaking coaches are available. Talented skaters may request one of All Star’s Star coaches, some of whom were members of the Chinese national skating team. Aili Lee, who has been coaching for eight years, believes skating can develop a person’s balance and coordination. She says, “Training develops a skater’s confidence and social skills. And in the competitive sport of ice hockey, players learn that skill, team spirit and mutual trust lead to success.”
Skaters can purchase helmets, elbow and knee pads, ice skates, hockey skates and skating outfits at All Star’s shop. A snack bar serves hot dogs and drinks to take the edge off a hard day of training.
While there aren’t many benches inside, parents can browse the mall’s shops.
With an indoor rink in almost every district of Beijing, it won’t be hard for you or your little ones to practice their new-found skating skills. Whether your children skate recreationally or competitively, the key to becoming a star on ice is protective gear, patience, and proper training. And as always, practice makes perfect.
The Ice Zone 冰点地带
Private lessons start from RMB 150 (per hour), but prices vary depending on the number of students. Basic Skills Skating Program ranges from RMB 400-800 (10 sessions).
Public skating: Price includes unlimited skating, skate rentals and lockers (RMB 1 deposit). RMB 30 (Mon-Fri), RMB 50 (weekends). Noon-5pm (Mon, Thu), Noon-4pm (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun) www.icezonechina.com
All Star Champion Skating Club 全明星滑冰俱乐部
Private lesson (40 min): RMB 135 (junior coach), RMB 170 (senior coach) and RMB 200 (star coach). Discounts for groups (maximum four students per coach) and for purchasing lessons in sets of 10, 50 and 100.
Public Skating: Price applies to 90min sessions. Mon-Fri 10am-6pm: RMB 30. After 6pm: RMB 40 (Mon-Thu), RMB 50 (Fri). RMB 50 (weekends and holidays).
Opening hours: Mon-Thu 10am-9.30pm. Fri, Sat-Sun 10am-10pm