Originally published April 11, 2010
It's always puzzled me that in the winter when it's freezing cold outside, everyone goes to the freezing cold ice rink, and in the summer, when it's steaming hot outside, everyone goes to the steaming hot beach.
Ice rinks are great in the summertime. Nice and cool, and often, empty. They often turn over the ice to the figure skaters all morning and the hockey players all afternoon (or vice versa), and you can basically spend all day in skates. Many rinks run skating camps, at both learn to skate and freestyle levels, or you skate on your own; take your coach's summer program if she or he has one, sign up for one of the many sleep-away skating camps, or just come once in a while for fun.
For skaters who want to compete, summer is pre-season, one of the most critical training periods. You want to make sure you're at the correct test level, start solidifying the new programs, make sure you have all the latest rules updates incorporated into your choreography, and strengthen your newest elements. Serious off ice endurance and strength training starts building up in the summer too.
Even for non-competitive skaters, you can use summer as your pre-season push. Maybe there are synchro or ice show auditions in the fall, or you're trying to make it up a level or two in class. This is the time to learn a new jump or spin, even if you're not planning to compete, just because there's so much ice available.
By May you're going to want to have had a conversation with your coach about your goals for the summer and the coming year, so you know how much ice to sign up for and what the training arc is going to be. Find out which competitions the coach is expecting you to do, what costumes you're going to need, and what the requirements are for your various goals. Here are some of the summer skating options:
Like any sleep away camps, there are serious highly competitive ones for "career" skaters like Ice Castles (although anyone with the cash can go if I'm not mistaken) or USFS camps for the current Team Envelope members. But there are also many many quality camps for skaters from serious to recreational. Ask your coach, club rep, or local USFS or PSA area representative how to find a skating camp that matches your skater's goals and level.
Local skating camps
Many rinks have both interim skating seminars and summer-long camps, ranging from half to full day. These camps usually consist of on ice and off ice components and may include things you won't get during the school year season. At my own rink we offer ice dance, figures, moves, and choreography as part of the summer program, as well as off-ice components that include ballet and jazz dance, pilates, soccer, arts and crafts and field trips to do things like roller blading or swimming. These camps are extremely cost-effective; often you don't have to sign up for the entire time, or even for every day, but can create your own schedule according to your vacation schedule, finances, and other activities.
Many coaches will set up their own summer programs, if their rink allows them to. You'll pay the coach a retainer-type fee based on the number of participants and hours, plus you'll pay the rink directly (in most cases) for ice time. Depending on how many skaters your coach gets involved, this can be the cheapest option, and easily incorporates your private lesson time into the ice schedule. Not all rinks allow coaches to do this; if your regular rink does not, you may need to follow the coach to a different rink for the summer. Many coaches will allow only their own students into these camps, even if you are not taking from someone else.
On your own
You can also set up your own training schedule without a supervising camp structure, but I would recommend this only for older and very self-directed kids. It is extremely difficult to maintain your own practice when you feel like the odd one out, where everyone else is in a program and you're just on your own. A couple/few times a week it will be just like school year skating, but if you want to try to skate every day, I would recommend finding a program to be part of, for the social aspect and the supervisory safety if nothing else.
Just for fun
Summer is also a great time to just take a break from structured lessons. At many rinks, practice ice is much emptier in the summer, and at every rink public sessions are very very sparse. Just come and skate for fun. Then go to the beach or the pool, where it's hot and sunny.
Me? I'll be waiting for you in the nice cool rink.