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Cooling your heels on ice

Best skating gear to help celebrate National Figure Skating Week

Jan. 15, 2003 —  Next week is National Figure Skating Week. To help celebrate, the United States Figure Skating Association is hosting free clinics around the country to introduce ice skating to people of all ages. Some people may hold back thinking, “I don’t want to skate because ice skates have the reputation of being so uncomfortable and expensive” — but that’s not true anymore. “Today” gear expert Paul Hochman talks about the latest skates to cool your heels on ice.

             IT’S A COOL way for parents to literally and figuratively share the playing field with their kids, instead of just standing on the sidelines cheering and it’s a lifetime sport. You might have to give up snowboarding once you hit your 70s but even grandparents can enjoy time on the ice with their grandkids. And its like riding a bike — once you learn it, you never forget.
       What has changed in the last year or so is that the skates are more comfortable, warmer, and cheaper. Gone are the days when girls could only have white, stiff figure skates, and boys could only have black, stiff hockey skates.
       Here are the skates I like most:
       For weekend skaters who have had to choose between stiff, uncomfortable hockey skates and not skating at all, enter the most comfortable soft-feel hockey hybrid (meaning hockey blade, no toe pick) in the business, the Nike Endorfin Recreational. This
 skate has a high-density carbon blade which won’t rust, and a revolutionary lace-up system which requires only one pull to tighten the whole skate; making it one of the industry’s easiest on/off skates. Plus, with a plush fleece liner, they’re warm. Perfect for a weekend skate-and-hot-chocolate outing with the kids. Added bonus: the men’s skate has hockey-like looks, eschewing the figure skate aesthetic completely. MSRP: About $100 www.nike.com
       Don Jackson was the first person to ever pull off a triple lutz in competition. The Canadian skater, though, never had anything as comfortable as these — the first-ever soft skate for wanna-be figure skaters. The carbon steel blade never rusts (this blade has a toe pick), and the velcro strap offers lots of ankle support. An ideal weekend skate for those who want to emulate Sarah Hughes. But not her blisters. MSRP: kids versions about $50, adult about $80. www.jacksonskates.com





       Soon after first steps come first glides — the double runner (2 blades strap on to winter boots) on the Bob Skate is totally stable (as close to shoes on dry land as any skate made) and is perfect for any kid from 2-6. And for less than $10, there isn’t a better deal going if a parent wants to introduce their toddler to the freedom of skating. MSRP: $9.95 www.skate-buys.com

       Do your kidlets squirm? Do they sit still for 20 seconds straight? LL Bean makes the easiest, quickest-entry skates in the business. A soft, comfortable liner sits inside a sturdy plastic shell (for added support). And a single, easy buckle system allows “lace-up” in less than 5 seconds. The kids are wobbling down the rubber ramp toward the rink before you can say Boitano. Comes in black for boys and white for girls. MSRP: $35 www.llbean.com
       OK, so you have to look like Michelle or Sarah or Kristi. But you’re not in the mood to spend nearly $1000 on custom skates.

         Enter the lowest-price all-leather-upper figure skate, the Dominion 718. Offers plenty of support for basic spins and turns, with a durable carbon blade which will hold its edge as you improve. Not as supportive as the top skates, but plenty for the weekend spinner. MSRP: $59 for Ladies and $54 for Girls. www.skate-buys.com
       Parents debate long and hard about how much to spend on a hockey skate when their little player reaches the performance crossroads at about 10 or ll years old. The answer: the best-value hockey skate out there, the CCM Externo E-10. With a removable blade (if multiple sharpenings wear the blade down prematurely), a cut-out for achilles tendon comfort, and a Reflex Bar that pulls the ankle snugly back into the heel pocket, the E-10 has lots of features that much more expensive skates generally offer. MSRP: $99 www.ccmsports.com
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