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Speed Skating: What to Know

by US Speedskating

So, you've watched the Olympic Winter Games and you’ve found yourself, a friend, or your child interested in speed skating. Here's everything you need to know to get involved in this fast-paced, thrilling sport.

First, there are three disciplines of speed skating: long track, short track and inline speed skating. Let's explore the differences.

Long Track

Long track speed skating is done on a 400m ice oval. In the United States, there are only six long track ovals! They are located in Anchorage, Alaska; Salt Lake City, Utah; Butte, Montana; Roseville, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Lake Placid, New York. 

US Speedskating
Photo by: US Speedskating

Most long track is raced in a time-trial format, where two skaters will go head to head during a race. During the Mass Start event, a skater will go to the line with over 15 other skaters. 

Long track is also traditionally done on a clap-blade skate. This means that the blade partially separates from the skating boot to help keep the blade on the ice for longer, similar to cross country skis. When the blade comes back in contact with the boot, it makes a “clapping” noise - hence the name!

Short Track

Julie Letai and Kristen Santos-Griswold compete during 2022 Short Track Four Continents Championships
Photo by: US Speedskating

Short track speed skating is raced on a 111m iced track. Short trackers use the same ice that hockey players use for their games. In the U.S., there are 37 states that have ice rinks that have short track clubs.

Short track is raced in a pack-style format. A skater can go to the line with three-to-six additional skaters for their race. In addition to individual races, a short tracker will compete with three other teammates in relay events against other teams.

Instead of a clap-blade, short track skaters use a fixed blade. This means that the blade will stay attached to their skate the entire race.


Inline

The final discipline of speed skating is inline. Although inline does not fall under US Speedskating’s guidance, they fall under our partner USA Roller Sports (USARS). Inline is done off the ice and can be done indoors, outdoors, on a banked track, or anywhere outdoors!

Inline can be done in a time-trial, pack style or marathon format for racing. For skates, inliners skate on three-to-four wheels that are lined up in a straight line.

One of the benefits of inline is accessibility. You don’t need an ice rink, just strap on inlines and head outside!


Find a Club Near You 

Now that you’ve got an understanding of speed skating, how do you get involved with one of the disciplines? The best resource is to use the ‘Find a Club’ feature on our site, where you can find a club near you by exploring our interactive map. Each club will have contact information listed.

In total there are just over 75 ice speed skating clubs in the U.S. available for you to join! To find inline clubs that may not be listed on our feature, click here.

Another way to locate an ice speed skating program for you is to use Learn to Skate USA’s website. Learn to Skate USA is endorsed by US Speedskating, US Figure Skating and US Hockey as a way to help everyone find a way to skate! 

Learn To Skate Logo
Photo by: Learn To Skate

“The emphasis of this curriculum is to develop confident and competent skaters of all levels and ages. The six levels can be taught as a group or used as individual goals. From the first steps on the ice, skaters will progress at their own pace and advance once they have mastered each skill. These skills will build a foundation that will aid skaters throughout the rest of their skating careers.”


Time for your First Session

Now that you’ve found a club that you want to join, the next step is to get in contact with that club. Each club has a little bit of a different process, rules and guidelines so communicating with the club right up to your very first practice will help you be as prepared as possible for your first session!

What to Wear

For your first session, you will want to wear a comfortable pair of sweatpants, a warm sweatshirt or light jacket so as to not inhibit your movement. Additionally, a warm pair of socks, gloves, a helmet and a set of knee pads can be helpful.

As for skates, a lot of clubs have skates that are available to use and or loan for practices. By contacting the club you want to get involved with and sharing your shoe size, they can help get a pair of skates for you.

Become a Part of the Speed Skating Community

Now it is time to become a part of the speed skating community! Establishing a good relationship with your club will set you up for speed skating success. Most coaches and helpers are volunteers and are current or former skaters. Clubs do a great job at creating a fun social environment to get involved and create a community!

Speed skating is a family sport - in most clubs you’ll find parents out skating and having fun with their kids. From an athlete development standpoint, one of the number one ways to improve your child's athletic performance/ career and general physical ability is by participating with them! Get involved, speed skating is for everyone and anyone of all ages.

Now that you've learned about 'what you need to know', it is time to speed skate! Tag us on social media @USSpeedskating on all major platforms to show us what you've learned.

Listen to our podcast on this topic here.

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