Blades and Ice: Going Skating in the City

Few Winters are Cold Enough for the Danube, but There are Rinks Aplenty

On The Town | Lucas Jakobsson | February 2007

During the winter time ice skates are a common sight at the Wiener Rathaus.  The ice rink, large enough for high speed with enough variety to keep your interest, brings the young, the old and the ones in between together for a worthy time.

Ice skating, although it may seem very modern with today’s rinks holding ice all year round, is in fact a very old sport.

It developed more than a thousand years ago in the northern parts of Europe due to the ease with which one can maneuver quickly on ice, and the relatively long distances which one is able to cross using comparatively low amounts of energy.

Initially made from animal bones instead of metal, ice skating has long been an all round sport, and unlike many that are popular today, it has rarely been associated with a particular socio-economic class.

Learning how to ice skate is not difficult at all. A gentle push with your legs into an outward direction is all that you need, although many people initially have problems with finding and keeping the balance.

All that is really necessary is to never lean backwards or forwards in an exaggerated manner. As you get better, bending the knees is a must.

Ice skating is particularly good as a training device for the lower back and upper thighs, as it uses all the leg muscles. Naturally, since it is a cardio active sport, it’s also very good for the heart and the lungs.  Depending on the intensity and the type of skate, an average person should consume somewhere between 600 and 700 calories per hour of activity.

Depending on the ice skate, various techniques are and should be used in order to get the most out of the experience.

The most common type of skates are designed for recreational skating, comfortable shoes fitted with a plastic brace.  Not as strong as hockey skates, these should only be used for gentle skating and for beginners.

The second most common, hockey skates, are much rougher and not nearly as comfortable, though they fit the foot almost perfectly and allow for extreme maneuvers.

Then there are figure skates, with "teeth" in the front of the shoes used for pirouettes, they demand a different technique of skating. More like walking, these shoes above all allow grace and style rather than speed and comfort.

Speed skates, with an extended blade, allow the skater to reach extremely high speeds, however maneuvering has to be kept top a minimum as the "braking" distance is very long. Used in cross country skating or competitive skating, these skates are best used for people intending to cover several kilometers in a high tempo.

In general, ice skates operate best (with the best resistance) at the temperature of -7 degrees Celsius, which is often the temperature that ice rinks try to maintain.

Ice skates as such are used in the competitive sports of ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating as well as recreational activities of distance skating in nature.

Although ice skating works fine in artificial environments, it does not even come close to ice skating on frozen lakes, rivers or seas in nature.

For the difference is all about feeling after all, fresh air, non-recurring sights of beautiful landscape and sunshine that are all denied in an enclosed ice rink.  Even more, with kilometers ahead, one can really get the feel of ice skating when one is skating on a river, never having to watch out for "traffic" nor having to turn around. The freedom is yours.

In Vienna, it seems as the only place to enjoy this beautiful sport is in the ice rinks, however, in colder years, ice skating is not uncommon on the Danube river.

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