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  • Sara Thompson

Gliding Along on a Cutting Edge

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


Ice skates were developed around 5000 years ago in Finland and were made from animal bones. Skates would not have metal attachments until nearly 3000 years later when leather boots were fitted with folded copper strips. Today, skates have blades permanently attached to the boot or shoe with a housing structure. Different ice sports use different kinds of skates that perform differently.


Figure skates are used by figure skaters and ice dancers. This style is often used for rentals at recreational rinks. Even though they are easily accessible, they can do a variety of different things. The blade is not straight but curved slightly to give the skater the ability to change their balance and shift their foot orientation. The blade also has a groove running the length of the blade creating a distinct inner and outer edge. This gives the skater greater glide and precision with movements. One of the most identifiable parts of a figure skate is the toe pick. This is the jagged edge near the toe of the boot. This is used for footwork, spins, and jumps during routines.

Skates used for hockey have a thicker boot to protect the skater from pucks, sticks, and other players. Similar to the figure skate, the blade is curved to help with maneuverability and quickly changing direction. It also has a groove running the length of the blade, giving it two edges for better contact with the ice and more control over movement. Hockey skates lack a toe pick, however. Hockey goalies also have a different skate than other players. Their boot has even more reinforcement and protection from pucks being shot at them. Their blade also has little to no curvature as the goalie does not need the turning maneuverability but needs a blade to help them move side to side quickly in front of the net to protect it.


Speed skates differ from both the figure and hockey skates. The blade is not curved, lacks a groove, and the length of the blade extended beyond the boot slightly making it longer. For short track races, the blade is fixed to the boot at multiple points. For long track races, the blade is attached near the toe with a hinge so the heel of the boot can detach from the blade. This ensures the blade has constant contact with the ice during the race and each stroke.


No matter what kind of skate for sports or recreation, all athletes have other safety equipment including helmets, joints guards, or pads. If you are trying some ice sports on skates, make sure to protect yourself properly.


Exploit's coming events:

• Winter Science Camp at Explorit! From the science of snow to animal adaptation, we hope that your camper can join us for this exciting dive into the fascinating science of Winter. Spaces still available for our afternoon session, December 19-22 1-4pm. $175 Members/$200 Non-Members. A craft suitable for gifting included daily.

• Winter Break extended hours: December 23 10am-4pm, December 27-29 10am-2pm, December 30 10am-4pm

• Noon Year Celebration, Saturday, December 31 10am-2pm. Celebrate the New Year early with fun crafts and activities at Explorit. $5 per person, Members and children under 2 free.

• Explorit will be closed December 24-26 and Sunday, January 1

• Give the gift of Science this holiday season! A Membership to Explorit grants the recipients free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, camps and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits to visit other museums throughout the world. To purchase or for more information visit https://www.explorit.org/membership or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.

• School Programs are available to schedule. We have educational programs that travel to schools and options for field trips at our facility. Please call 530-756-0191 for more information or to schedule.

• Now is a great time to donate and help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow: https://www.explorit.org/donate.





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