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Alaska Speedskating Club

Wanna Try?

Wanna Try Speedskating? 


For skaters, here is our 2017-2018 membership guide!


Alaska Speedskating offers instruction, training, and racing for speedskating in Anchorage, Alaska. We welcome you to come skate with us. The purpose of this page is to provide some basic information on speedskating and what it takes to speedskate. For current information on practices, races, and events, sign up for our email list(s) and visit the short track, long track, and calendar pages. For information on where to buy speedskating equipment, visit the links page. 

There are two main styles of speedskating: short track and long track. It's worth doing both. Long track skating will help short trackers skate faster, and short track skating will help long trackers to turn better. 

Short Track Speedskating

Short-track speedskating is speedskating on a hockey rink. This is perhaps the most accessible form of speedskating, because there are lots of hockey rinks, the temperature inside is pretty warm, the ice is good, and the skating is fun. Each lap is 111 m, with a radius of 8.5 meters. In short track races are a bit like Nascar on ice. It’s the first one across the finish line that wins. There can be a lot of strategy and tactics in the races, and skaters need to learn to pass well. Our skaters reach speeds of 25 miles per hour around the rink. Races are commonly 500 m (4.5 laps), 1000 m (9 laps), 1500 m (13.5 laps). Relays are very fun, and we do them in practice a lot. The most well known US short tracker in recent years is Apolo Ohno. 

The skates used for short-track speedskating have a fixed heel (it doesn't hinge), and have a radius of around 8 meters. This allows the skates to carve the tight corners of a short track. Mats are placed along the corners of the rink so if someone crashes and slides into the boards, they will be cushioned by the matts. 

Long Track Speedskating

Long track speedskating is the classic style of speedskating. Events take place on a 400 m oval, with a radius of 25-26 meters. Compared to a running track, the straightaways are longer and the corners tighter. This style of speedskating is perhaps the best known, with the likes of Shani Davis, Derek Parra, Bonnie Blair, and Eric Heiden as notable Olympians. The blades used for long track have roughly a 25 meter radius, and thus they cannot turn as tight as short track blades. They are much flatter than blades for short track. The blades on skates for beginners have a fixed heel, but intermediate and advanced skates hinge beneath the toes - these are called "clap" blades. Races are commonly the same distances as short track, but the Olympics include longer distances too: 500 m (1.25 laps), 1000 m (2.5 laps), 1500 m (3.75 laps), 5000 m (12.5 laps), and 10,000 m (25 laps). These races are conducted in two styles. Pack style is like short track where the first person across the line wins. "Metric" or "Olympic" style is where there are two skaters competing against the clock. These are more like a drag race or time trial, and the skaters switch lanes on the back stretch, and it's the fastest skater that wins the race. There are also 'marathon' races with distances of 25 km and 50 km. We usually hold one marathon race each year. In Holland these are huge events. There is a US and Canadian marathon series in the northeast. There is also a US National marathon event, which we hosted in 1999.

What does it feel like to skate on speedskates?

Speedskates have an advantage to beginning skaters over figure or hockey skates in that they are longer, so it's a bit harder to tip over on them. They don't have a hollow grind on the blade (like figure or hockey skates), rather it's a flat grind, so you don't dig into the ice until you are leaning on on your edges. Most people catch on to the feel of the blades pretty quickly, and most everyone feels like they are going really fast. 

How well do I need to be able to skate if I want to try it? How hard is it hard to speedskate?

We allow skaters of most abilities to attend speedskating practices. We have had skaters from age three to seventy-something on the ice. We do ask that skaters have at least rudimentary skating skills. We find that skaters who can skate backwards - even a little bit - will get a lot more out of a speedskating practice than those who can't. 

What do you do during practices?

A typical practice consists of a warm up, some work on speedskating technique and some work on conditioning. Speedskating is a sport where technique is very important. Even Olympic-caliber skaters spend considerable time perfecting their technique at low speeds. Conditioning workouts often consist of doing intervals. At short track practices, we often split the skaters into faster and slower ability groups. Then each group takes turns skating and resting. In short track, we often do relays to work on conditioning or technique, or we do games for fun. Tag or ultimate on speedskates can be pretty entertaining.


What speedskating events can I participate in?

We have short track races about every month during the winter.. We have long track races with about the same frequency at the oval in the Cuddy Mid Town Park. Every year we do a "marathon" which has 5, 10,  25 and 50 kilometer events at the skating oval. We also have a speedskate/skate ski duathlon, where you start out skating and end up cross country skiing. Beyond Alaska—-if you are in middle school or high school, you can participate in the Arctic Winter Games, which occur every other year. For most school age kids this is the biggest event that kids train for. On the non-Arctic Winter Games years, we go to a big short track competition in Calgary. Other skaters have gone to the National Championships for short track, long track, marathon, and masters events. 

How much does it cost, and what equipment is needed?

We have volunteer coaches, but we still need to pay for ice fees, thus the cost of short track and long track is different. Regardless, if you come more than a three times, we ask that you join Alaska Speedskating (annual fee of about $40) - which pays for insurance and costs to run races. 

Short track: First time skaters are free. Ice fees are about $18/session. Speedskates and safety gear in all sizes is available for free at each session. Yearly rentals are $50 for skates, with a $200 deposit. 

Short track needs a lot of safety gear. People can get hurt falling into the corners or by getting cut by a falling skater. We put out 45 safety mats along the corners to protect people from hitting the boards, if there is a fall. On the ice, we require skaters to wear long pants and long sleeve shirt, cut-resistant gloves (leather gardening gloves work fine), a helmet (a multi-sport helmet works fine), volleyball style knee pads, soccer-style shin guards, and a hockey bib-style neck protector (to guard against cuts to the neck). Dedicated skaters usually wear "skin suits" that reduce wind resistance, and these often have built in knee pads and shin guards. 

Long track: There is no per-session fee, but after two sessions, you are encouraged to purchase an Anchorage Skates oval pin f0r $20. You can get pins at Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking, online by registering using the “ Register” button at the top right of this website,  online through the Alaska Community Foundation or at practices/races.  Skates are not available at the oval. Short track skates can be rented at the O’Malley Sports  Centre at a short track practice, or long track skates can be rented from AMH. We do not mandate safety gear for Long Track , but skaters need to acknowledge the risks associated with skating.
   

Where do you get speedskates? How much do they cost?

There are no stores in Anchorage that sell quality speedskates, although rarely a decent pair can be found at Play It Again Sports. Boots and blades are commonly sold separately. The best sources are either mail order, internet, or used equipment from local skaters. See our links page for a list of vendors we have used. Used skates are, of course, the cheapest. If you can find your size you can get a good quality low-end pair of skates for as cheap as $100 if you were lucky. New entry level skates can be as cheap as $250. Quality boots can run $250-$750, and custom molded boots can run from $1100-$3000 range. Serious skaters use different skates for long track and short track. Short track boots are higher and stiffer; long track are lower. Short track blades have a fixed heel and run from $150-$475. The clap mechanism and blade for long track skates run from about $350-$900. More expensive blades are harder and don't dull as quickly as cheap ones. Better short track skaters use blades that are slightly bent, and better blades hold their bend better. Quality long track skates can be rented locally from AMH. 

So you thought that was it? You will also need sharpening equipment. All speedskates are hand sharpened. What you'll need is a jig, a sharpening stone or two, a burr stone, and a rag. The club has jigs you can borrow, but if you are a dedicated skater, you will eventually want to get your own. The rag is the cheapest part. A  jig is about $130-$200, stones range from $30-$100, and burr stones are about $5-$15.

Do hockey skaters make good speedskaters?

You bet. Both hockey and figure skaters have learned a lot of agility, which people who only speedskate tend  to lack. The main differences are that proper speedskating form requires more of a bend in the knees, so that you have a longer and more powerful and even stroke, and you push more from the middle of your foot, rather than from the toe.
   

Can hockey or figure skaters improve their skating by speedskating?

You bet ... again! Efficient speedskating technique transfers to other types of skating very well. One of our club skaters grew up playing hockey, and later in life took up speedskating. As a hockey player he was always one of the faster players, but after taking up speedskating he became by far the fastest hockey skater. He could catch people in breakaways that didn't think they could be caught!

How can I get started now?

There's a bunch of stuff you can do, if you are psyched about speedskating.  First, get out and skate. Skate short track if the season is going. You will get the most instruction and individual attention there. You can also try long track - go to AMH and rent some. Uber skater Shani Davis started as a short tracker, and many long trackers train by doing short track, because it emphasises some aspects of technique. The rink at UAA has little traffic in the AM and at noons at their open skate sessions, so that is one thing you can take advantage of. 

 

Field Status

Open Open

O’Malley Sports Center (02:51 PM | 08/25/19)

Open Open

Cuddy Park Skating Oval (02:49 PM | 08/25/19)