Wellness

Ice dancer Asher Hill's tips for any first-time skaters — plus 2 tricks you can pull off!

Here's how to stay safe out there, and look pretty good too.

Here's how to stay safe out there, and look pretty good too

(Courtesy of CBC)

Trying skating for the first time as an adult or looking to get more into it this year? It's a great sport and a really fun time, but not without risks. Don't sweat it too much, though. We talked to Battle of the Blades and That Figure Skating Show's Asher Hill to get his advice on how to get started — from what to wear for comfort, warmth and agility to falling safely and avoiding injuries. Plus, we want some tricks we can try to impress our friends! 

The ice dancer and choreographer talked to us in advance of this Thursday's finale of Battle of the Blades, where he and Jessica Campbell will face off against the remaining pairs for the Season 6 title. Scroll through for Hill's pro tips  — they'll help make you look and feel much better on the ice this winter. 

Tips for first-time skaters 

"Don't be afraid to fall down right away," says Hill. "As children we have mostly no fear. When we fall down, we just get right back to it. I know it's ice and you're skating on knives so it's inevitable." 

He also suggests choosing a pair of skates that are strong but not too stiff. "I always recommend used skates," he says. "As an adult you always want something that supports your ankles, but not to the extent that you can't bend and hold yourself."

For balance, Hill says,"The best way to skate is to bring your gravity closer to the ice, and you do that by bending your knees and elbows." 

His last tip for first timers is: "Dress warm! Our whole lives as figure skaters is a struggle to stay warm. You have a lot more fun when you're not completely freezing." 

Tips for skaters getting back on the ice

"To me, skating is like that cliché of riding a bike. You'll get on and your ankles may be wobblier and weaker, but you'll get right back into it," explains Hill. He cautions that you check your skates well before hitting the ice. "Make sure to inspect your skates for rust because if they are rusty sometimes, they will catch and you might fall down," says Hill. 

"Take your time at first, but I guarantee if it's only been 12 months since you've skated and you're good at it, you'll be good to go." 

What to wear for comfort, warmth and agility 

While Hill personally prefers thick socks, he says a lot of people like thin socks because it creates more air circulation and keeps your feet warmer. "My coaches this year on Battle of the Blades came out with these heated socks and heated pants and I was actually so jealous, so I'm going to invest in some of those," says. Winter accessories are important too. "Thick mittens would be great. If you hate mittens, get yourself a good pair of gloves, and layers," he says. "You can always add layers and take off layers if you get too warm." 

How to fall safely and avoid injuries

"Always try to fall on your butt," advises Hill, who says it's the safest way to tumble. "If you feel like you're slipping and going to fall from your heels to your head, tuck your neck into your chin, because your head is the most important part of your body," he adds. "It's where the brain is, and you don't want to mess with that." Although it seems counterintuitive, Hill suggests leaning into the flow of your fall. "If you go against the fall, it's going to be much harder." 

Tricks to impress friends

Believe it or not, one of the things a lot of people can't do on the ice is stop. "Stopping is terrifying because you have to turn your blades sideways, and all you want to do is glide forwards and backwards on your blades. So, stopping is a really cool thing a lot of people can't do," says Hill. He has some advice for nailing it too. "Think about pushing both of your feet away from the centre of the body — and you want to create snow. You'll know you're stopping because you'll hear a skidding sound, which sounds like metal on ice, which is very impressive," he says. 

Another trick to easily impress friends is to skate backwards. "The best way to learn to go backwards is to bend your knees and ankles forwards, and then start wiggling your butt. Eventually your feet will start moving underneath you like a zig-zaggy swizzle pattern, so you'll start moving," he says, including that you should keep the weight closer to the back of your feet. Your friends will be like, 'How did you do that?'"

How to know if you're ready to take on a bigger trick

It's best to start with the basics. "The waltz jump is the most basic jump in skating, where you take off from the forward edge of your skate, turn a half turn in the air and then land on the back outside edge," explains Hill. "I would say you're ready to do that when you're a little more comfortable in the blade and if you're not afraid to roll to your toe pick," he says. "Having synchronicity in your arms and legs so they do their job at the same time is important, too. Basically, you want to swing your arms back with your legs and then your arms come forward with you," he says. "If you can run on your toes down the ice, I think you're ready for a trick like the waltz jump." 

Why he can't wait for the Battle of the Blades finale

"I can't wait to see which one of us is going to take home the trophy. Everyone has been so incredible. All of the hockey players this season have been amazing," says Hill. He thinks it's the best season of Battle of the Blades, too. "I remember coming in week one and watching all the hockey players and just being like wow, 'they're good!'" 

For Hill, that includes his partner, Jessica Campbell. "It's so fun for me to have fun with the sport again and see these hockey players just take on a role that's so foreign to them and go in with their heart and soul and all their energy and focus and just their willingness to learn and push themselves and literally perform," says Hill. 

He's also eager for the chosen charities to receive the support they've worked so hard to get to them. "It's been really incredible to be part of something like a figure skating hockey show that has the capacity to do so much good. It's really beautiful to me that in my sport, there's a way you can help and create advocacy with what you truly believe and fight for," continues Hill. "I'm really excited for the charities to get the money, especially during a time of so much uncertainty in all our personal lives."

The Season 6 finale of Battle of the Blades airs Thurs. Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. (9 AT, 9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem.


Carly Ostroff is a Toronto-based fashion and beauty writer, content creator and TV expert. Follow along with her @carlyostroff.

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