Friday, March 27, 2020

The Not So Stolen Skates - Untold Tales From the Ice Skating World - Story #2


There are many untold stories from the ice skating world that are kept secret.  As long as I have the time during this time of quarantine, I will write out some of these stories.  I will change or leave out names to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Today's story is called The Not So Stolen Skates.

The Not So Stolen Skates



My friend "Helen" is a collector.  Her home and car are filled with stuff.

When Helen's son, "Saul" was little, he was sort of part of my family since he skated for a time with my daughter "Ana."

My three children and Saul had so much fun together that Helen would drop Saul off at our house all the time so the kids could play.  Some people thought I had four children when they saw us together at the ice rink.

We all were like family and had so much fun together when the kids were little.  At the mall rink, the kids played together all day long and just had fun skating.

When I took my kids to the figure skating training center in the mountains, it didn't take long for Helen to decide to take Saul there too.  We were not really ready for the intense atmosphere that was in the training arena, but we also knew that it was the right place for our children to skate if they wanted to be as best they could be.

The training center ice rink in the mountains that we eventually all skated at had a table in the lobby that once in awhile was filled with lost and found items.  Helen's collecting nature tempted her when she saw things on that table.

One day, in late 2007, Helen saw a pair of white skates on that table.  She asked the people working at the front desk if it was okay for her to take them to her car for Saul to try on.  She explained that Saul would be embarrassed to try on white skates in public.  Unfortunately, Helen collected so many things, that she forgot that she had borrowed them and left the skates in her car.

It turned out that those skates were not lost and found items, but had just been left on the table by a skater.   When the skater returned to collect her skates and discovered they were missing, the rink's video surveillance camera showed Helen taking the skates.

Helen was asked to return the skates and she immediately complied; however, the skater insisted that Helen had damaged the inside of the boots with slashes.   Helen of course denied damaging the skates, but no one believed her.

A formal complaint was made against Helen to the rink's skating club.  There were numerous meetings and the outcome for Helen was not positive.  She was banned from the club although Saul was allowed to continue his membership.  The arena management decided to continue to allow Helen to go inside the rink and Saul of course was allowed to continue skating and training there.

Years have passed, but Helen is still very upset about the incident.  Saul is no longer skating, but the memory of the "Not So Stolen Skates" will forever stay with them.

Further Reading:

The Coaching Feud - Untold Tales From the Ice Skating World - Story #1


There are many untold stories from the ice skating world that are kept secret.  As long as I have the time during this time of quarantine, I will write out some of these stories.  I will change or leave out names to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Today's story is called The Ice Dancing Coaching Feud.

The Ice Dancing Coaching Feud


There were two coaches at a certain ice skating center in the mountains that never got along.  I had no idea how bad their feud was until my family was affected.  We ended up right in the middle of it.  Here's a summary of one of the most dramatic feuds that has ever occured in the figure skating.

Both coaches were very accomplished.  One of the coaches was young, beautiful and talented.  It seemed like anything she did turned to gold. The other coach was one of the smartest women in skating.  She knew how to put skaters together and turn them into champions.  She would find other coaches to work with her skaters in addition to herself and her "coaching team" seemed to make her ice dance teams win.

When we first went to the ice skating training center that was right near our home to skate, I just wanted my children to be in an atmosphere where the best skaters trained.  I did not know there was tension between these two coaches.

At first I taught my children on my own there.  It was intimidating for them, but also stimulating for all of us to be on the same ice with so many good ice dancers.  I'd been away from competitive skating for some time and had only taught recreational figure skaters, so I wanted to learn and make my children, who were a cute sister-brother ice dance team into the best they could be.

It was in the spring of 2006 that I decided to approach "Pamela" one day via email since she was too busy at the rink to approach.  She seemed to be the best dance coach at the ice center.  Her students included ice dance teams that covered every level.  I wasn't sure she'd have time to fit my young children into her busy schedule, but I thought I'd ask.

A two to three lessons a week schedule began with me observing Pamela.  I would spend the time between those lessons drilling my children on what Pamela wanted them to master.  It was a good arrangement and my children's skating did improve.

It was annoying that the ice skating center made me pay to teach my own children every time I taught them.  That didn't make sense to me.  I was bringing business into the arena by purchasing ice time, so it just seemed ridiculous for me to pay to coach my own children, but I complied.

As the 2007 competition season for my children ended in October of 2006, I noticed that Pamela just didn't give me and my children what I wanted even though they won the Pre-Juvenile regional title.  Pamela did not show up at the competition since she was busy with other students, so I had to teach my children myself at the event.  I found she was difficult to approach too, so I asked some parents that had skaters that worked with "Brittany" about what their experience was like with the younger and less busy coach.  Shortly after, I decided to make a coaching change.

The coaching change went smoothly.  Pamela seemed to understand and accepted my decision to make a coaching change and moved on.

Then something happened on their first day of lessons with Brittany that showed me that there was some tension between the two coaches.

Brittany was having my children "Josh and Rachel" do forward swing rolls.  I was following behind.  A very accomplished brother-sister team (who eventually went on to win an Olympic medal in ice dancing) were having a lesson with "Ronald" one of the coaches who was part of Pamela's co-coaching team.

"Mila and Andrew" were about to leave for the Midwestern Championships.  They were working hard on an advanced ice dance called the Paso Doble.  This particular pattern dance is done in the middle of the ice sheet.

My kids, Josh and Rachel, were closely following Brittany's lead, as Mila and Andrew were doing the Paso to music.  Rachel and Josh were not watching for other skaters since they were following Brittany and trying hard to copy her every move.  Suddenly, there was a collision.  It seemed as if coach Ronald wanted the skaters to collide.

Rachel and Mila both flew in opposite directions.  Rachel was hurt.  Andrew made sure Rachel was okay as Mila moaned and groaned.  It was obvious she was not hurt, but Mila was only about 11 or 12 years old at the time and needed to make a scene.  She cried more than she needed to.

We all felt horrible that there had been a collision, and tried to apologize, but neither Pamela nor Mila's mother would accept our apology.  In fact, Mila's mother made my daughter feel so bad that she made my little Rachel cry!  I couldn't believe a parent would not accept an apology and not care about my child, but that is what happened.

Later that afternoon, I was called into the rink manager's office and was told that if such a collision would happen again that my children may not be allowed to skate at the facility.  I was given a warning, and told that we had jeopardized Mila and Andrew's chances at the Midwestern Championships.  (It turned out that Mila was seen happily playing ball later that afternoon outside of the rink.)

When I let Brittany know about my conversation with the rink manager, I was told, after Brittany called the manager, that I didn't quite understand, and that things were not quite as threatening as I had thought, but from that day forward, I was always terribly worried that my children would get in the way of any of Pamela's skaters, so I was constantly on the ice with them making sure they never got in the way.

We did have some close calls and it seemed every time my children were even close to one of Pamela's skaters, that I would see one of the parents of Pamela's students rush into the arena's office to complain.

The atmosphere on the ice was more than tense.

Things worsened when Brittany teamed up "Abigail and Jonathan."  Abigail had worked with Brittany as a solo skater, but once she was teamed up with Jonathan, they became a junior level team that were really good.  They were a direct threat to Pamela's other junior teams, and so it seemed a competition at the rink began between the two coaches on who was the better coach.

My children, Josh and Rachel, still got a lot of attention from Brittany even though Abigail and Jonathan needed many more lessons and took up what seemed like most of Brittany's time.  We felt taken care of and Brittany told me once that she loved my children so much and treated them as if they were her own.

As time went on Brittany gained more students, so there was not really enough spaces on the ice sessions for both Pamela's and Brittany's students.  This increased the tension at the arena since the rink's office had to make decisions on who would be skating on certain sessions.  In other words, there was a competition for ice time.  Solo ice dancers could not get spots on the sessions and sometimes got bumped from sessions even if they paid for those sessions in advance so teams could skate together.  On Saturday mornings, there would be a race for walk-on sign ups for sessions where pre-signing up had not been permitted.

One instance which was really typical during this coaching feud that I remember was almost comical.  There was a guideline at the rink that the skaters doing their programs to music should wear a green sash.  That really helped my children, who were very young, know when to stay clear of the dance teams who were doing run-throughs of their competition programs.  The comical instance occurred during a practice session during Summer Skate, when the ice dance sessions were especially full and tense.  All of Pamela's skaters decided to come to that session wearing green sashes!

"Mommy, who do we get out of the way for?" asked my children.  It was a totally ridiculous prank!

Another young ice dance team, coached by Pamela, teamed up in 2007.  Those two young children were extremely talented skaters.  It seemed that their existence added more to the existing feud.  "Kathy and Luke" were in direct competition with my children and most of the time placed ahead of them which seemed to confirm that Pamela was the better coach, but once in awhile, Rachel and Josh placed higher.

The 2008 US Junior Championships took place in Lake Placid, New York.  Kathy and Luke were the Midwestern Juvenile Champions, and the favorite to win.  That did not happen though.  A team from Maryland won, Josh and Rachel placed second, and Kathy and Luke placed third.

When a local paper in our mountain town posted a photo of the juvenile ice dance medalists from our area on the podium, the article was posted on the club board at the arena.  Someone kept turning Rachel's and Josh's photo over and over again so that only Kathy and Luke's photo showed on the board.  This, in my opinion, was ridiculous, but also upset me greatly.  It was confirmed later that Kathy and her friends thought it was a funny prank.  I eventually posted the photo on my blog where no one could touch it.

Sometime during the intense time that my kids were competing against Kathy and Luke, I noticed that Kathy and Luke had the cutest program.  I decided to film it since it was just so very clever.  A few days later, Kathy's father, who was also a coach, approached me in anger.

"I have talked to all the coaches at the arena about you filming my daughter's program.  What you did was out of line.  You could possibly be stealing moves."

Kathy's father's statements caught me off guard and of course upset me.  I explained to him that I really was clueless that I had given the impression I was stealing moves by filming his child's cute program, but told him I would not do it again.

(Later, filming any skaters, including one's own children at the training center was banned.  I really didn't believe it applied to me since I sent videos of my kids' practice sessions to my father every day to enjoy, so I kept filming my kids, but as time went on, I was told I couldn't film my own children's skating unless a coach requested it.  I was no longer considered one of their coaches even though I continued to pay the arena to teach my own children and be on the ice with them.)

Another thing that added to the intensity of the tension and feud among these two ice dance coaches was that pair skating teams skated on some combined ice dance-pair sessions.  Pair skating teams doing high overhead and dangerous lifts sometimes just couldn't move for ice dancers doing run-through programs.  It was so very dangerous.

One day, I was waiting to use the music, when one of the top level ice dance teams was doing a run through of their program, but had to stop as they began to skate right into a pair team that was in the middle of an overhead lift.

The ice dance team was not in the middle of a lesson, but I could "feel the tension" as I saw Pamela angrily walking over to the music playing station to address her team.

I heard the following:

"I NEVER want you to ever stop in the middle of your program again!"

"Tom," Pamela's student replied.  "We were about to almost get killed.  We had to stop."

Pamela replied, "No!  You should have slammed into them since you had the right of way.  Never again do I want to see you stop for anyone!"

I was shocked.  When I had been a competitive skater, skaters exhibited some courtesy and did move for one another and knew that once in awhile that other skaters might get in their way.  I heard Pamela tell her skaters that the only way to train properly was to run other skaters down!

This atmosphere of intensity just kept getting worse and worse.  There seemed to be a competition on the ice every day, but this competition went on off the ice too.   The parents of Pamela's students sat together and Brittany's parents sat in separate areas.  There were no smiles or friendly attitudes among the two camps.  Skaters and parents cheered for the skaters only in their camps.  This was terrible sportsmanship.  My children thought every ice rink had similar feuds.  I tried to tell them that coaching feuds in other facilities did not exist with such intensity, but I don't think they believed me.  This feud had gone on for more than five years!

My family ended up right in the middle of this feud in 2010 when my youngest child, "Ana," teamed up with "Victor."  Victor had been a long time student of Pamela's and I just felt Ana and Victor would make a nice juvenile level ice dance team.

The fact that Ana was going to skate with Victor at all crushed Brittany.  I still remember her calling me pleading with me not to follow through on the partnership, but Ana cried when I told her that Brittany did not want her to skate with Victor, so we went ahead and allowed the partnership to form.

As time passed, Brittany accepted the fact that Ana and Victor were a team, but the whole situation felt tense.  Ana told me she loved Brittany so much, but felt Brittany was angry with her every time she saw her.  This was horrible for a little girl who wanted to be liked by everyone.

My family was part of both skating camps, so I could sit with either Pamela's students parents or Brittany's, but I usually would just get on the ice so I didn't have to be in contact with either side.  I would put my skates on at the far end of the rink and instructed my kids to do the same thing.

The feud hit its highest intensity when two skaters who had once been a team, "Janice and Mickey" were teamed up with other skaters from both camps.  Janice was now Brittany's student and Mickey was Pamela's.  When Mickey and his partner were on the same sessions as Janice and her partner, it seemed that more collisions than ever occurred.  Some said that Mickey was deliberately trying to run into Janice.

After a really bad collision, Janice's parents filed a restraining order against Mickey.  This meant they could not be within 50 feet of one another, so they could not practice on the same practice sessions or even compete in the same competitions!  When this went to court, Pamela paid for Mickey's court costs.

This very public case seemed to be the last straw for the ice skating training center.  After a few months, in early 2011, Brittany's and Pamela's students were notified that both coaches were no longer going to be allowed to coach at the arena after April of that year.

Petitions began circulating to keep the coaches in the facility and the parents of both camps met with the arena's general manager hoping for a compromise, but that did not happen.

Aftermath:


Some students followed Pamela and Brittany to different ice rinks, but others hoped the ice skating training center would provide even better ice dance coaches.  That never happened.  The ice dance program at the facility essentially crumbled.

My own children suffered and so did many other skaters.  Rachel and Josh skated together for only one more season.  Ana and Victor's partnership ended almost as soon as Pamela was not allowed at the rink.

It took many years for my family to regain their joy of skating.  Some of the other skaters' joy of skating never returned.

As time has passed, when we remember this coaching feud, we can't quite believe it existed.  I've heard that things are still somewhat tense between Brittany and Pamela, but usually they teach at different rinks, so their students are not affected like we were.

Time does heal and I hope someday that every person affected by this coaching feud will regain their love of skating.

Further Reading:



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

There Is No Place Like a Home Rink - NOT!


Even though my children are grown and have traveled with Disney On Ice, we still consider the Broadmoor and the World Arena Ice Hall our home rink.

In fact, if Disney On Ice had gone on as planned in Colorado Springs during the weekend of March 19 through March 22, 2020, my daughter Rebekah was scheduled to be on the local Colorado Springs news.  She was so excited about performing at her home rink and in front of a home audience.  She planned to tell everyone how the Ice Hall had made it possible for her to live a skating dream, perform, and travel all over the world.  She wanted the skaters from the Broadmoor Skating Club and the Ice Hall at the Broadmoor World Arena to see how the training she received at the Ice Hall made it possible for her to have a professional figure skating career.  She wanted the local skating community to be proud of her accomplishments.

All that dissolved and fell apart in what seemed like a moment on Thursday, March 12, 2020, when her cast was about to open in Phoenix, Arizona.  All of a sudden, the 5000 employees that worked for Disney On Ice were laid off and told they were being sent home.

Rebekah rented a car and drove to Colorado Springs on Saturday, March 14 through Sunday, March 15.  She looked forward at least to being able to skate at her home rink.  That was one of the "hopes" that was on her mind as she made the long drive home.

Well, that hope went out the door when I was told on Monday, March 16 that she and the rest of my family are now considered "visitors or guests."  Apparently, "residents" (although we live five minutes from the rink) are those currently training at the Ice Hall.   Even Olympians and elite skaters that once trained there are not welcome at this time on World Arena ice.

This does make sense.  The Coronavirus cautionary measures are real and important.

But...it just hurts, after all the years we spent at the Ice Hall to be told we no longer belong there and are now outsiders.

I have bottled up my feelings about this for years, but I am going to voice them now.

I was always proud to be a Broadmoor skater.  When I returned to Colorado Springs as an adult, I couldn't wait to be back in the place that I called home.  I was disappointed then because there were roadblocks that were put in front of me. 

I wasn't welcome to teach at The Broadmoor and when the Colorado Springs World Arena opened, I was not welcome to teach there either.  Others that once were Broadmoor skaters also were not welcome to teach there.

It was only when I brought my three children to the World Arena and began spending a lot of money, I was welcomed back.  I taught Learn to Skate there for a time and loved it, but all of a sudden was no longer given classes (I never found out the reason, but I think it was because I passed a child to the next level that maybe should not have passed).

Right now a lot of emotions are happening due to the fact the world is in crisis.  People that don't skate don't understand why I would be upset about something so trivial, but my answer to that is that I can be upset about anything I want to be upset about.

There are others who have told me that the unwelcoming atmosphere at the World Arena made them lose their love of skating.  Although the place is one of the highest quality figure skating training centers in the world, is it right that so many have been mentally hurt by the facility's policies and atmosphere?

Somewhere in 2012 or 2013, I was silenced by the World Arena management and told if continued writing about the facility and its skaters I would be banned from the place and there was a good chance that my children would be banned from skating there.  If we are banned now for voicing my opinion, so be it.  My kids are no longer training there and don't need to skate there.  I only coach once in a while and when I do coach, I coach at a different rink in Colorado Springs.  I guess if I ever have grandchildren they might not be allowed in or perhaps I won't be able to spend my own money on a show at The Broadmoor World Arena or the Pikes Peak Center?

I have always given the facility credit for my children's outstanding skating accomplishments, but when it comes down to it, they achieved greatness at other rinks and with other coaches in addition to the training they received at the Ice Hall.

I know this is "just skating," but like I said, if I want to be upset about something, I can be upset about anything I want to be upset about, and right now I am fed up with the rink that my family calls "home."

-----------------

Added note:  I know this is a difficult time for everyone in this world, not just in the skating world, and emotions are running high.   I am sorry I bothered the management at the Ice Hall with this issue during what must be a difficult time for the rink, the coaches, the skaters, and the management, but still, that doesn't mean I can't voice the thoughts that have been bottled up inside me on my personal blog.  Now that I wrote this out, I will move on.

Update 11:15 AM March 17, 2020:  

I just heard that the rink closed.  This is not about me only, it is about a worldwide pandemic, but still, I needed to write this out.



Monday, February 3, 2020

Weekend of Nordic Skiing! February 1st and 2nd, 2020

It is hard to explain to people that don't love cross country skiing as much as me, but being outside somewhere on my Nordic skis gives me so much joy and happiness.  It's like my heart belongs on the trails and in the mountains.  I feel like Maria from the Sound of Music!

My Happy Place!  - Devil's Thumb Ranch 2-1-2020


My love of being in the outdoors seems to expand to any sport that included gliding and moving forward actually!  It's made me understand adult figure skaters more since they are so passionate about skating and can't get enough of it.  Being on skis gives me that same sort of high, but of course, I still like to skate even though I've done it for over 50 years!



Anyway, my sweet husband Dan took me to BOTH Devil's Thumb Ranch (near Winter Park) and also to Eldora Ski Area (near Boulder) this weekend.



I skied from the moment I got there until the places closed.  I think if I'd had more light I would have even skied longer.

At Devil's Thumb, I should have worn my skating skis since my "hike" would have been shorter, but I had a wonderful day venturing into the hills on my metal edge nordic skis on a black trail that was described "For Experts Only" and skiing down.

I headed out on Blue Extra, went up on Swindler, did all of Double Pole, the hiked up Disco and Lactic Grand.  I knew "what goes up must come down" and ended up skiing down a really steep hill on Lactic Grand.   Then I skied down Wesley which was still black but easier and then took the Sawmill Loop back to Blue Extra which took me back to Ranch Walk and to the Nordic Center.  It was a great five hour adventure!

Devil's Thumb - I climbed up this hill and skied down the other side.  The down part was so fun!

We would have been there earlier, but we have discovered that the traffic going into the mountains from Denver on I-70 on Saturday morning is always bad.  We left at 5:30 am from Larkspur and didn't arrive to Snow Mountain Ranch until 10:30 am.



Even though it took a long time to get there, I really loved my day at Devil's Thumb.  The Saturday before, we did not arrive at Devil's Thumb until about 12:30 pm, so I ran out of time, but did take Ranch Walk to Monster Cookie and Black 10 and down Meander.  Then after a brief rest, I headed on Blue Extra and then went up and down Coyote and then took went on Meadow and Blue Extra to part of Left Field and then headed back to the lodge.  My two times at Devil's Thumb were good and I hope to go back again.


At Eldora, I went up 17th Avenue and the went to Snow Cat and skied down the alpine trail. I then hiked to the top of 17th Avenue and went down Deadman’s Gulch to Zarengo Loop. After Zarengo Loop, I did Jenny’s Loop. Then I hiked up Deadman’s Gulch. I cut across on Jaszure and Gandy Dancer and the went down 17th Avenue. I then changed to my skating skis and hiked back up and went down Annie B’s and did the Buckeye Basin blue loop and skied down Mill Iron and Sawmill and Dixie and then went back down 17th Avenue. It was so beautiful and fun!

The drive to Eldora is way shorter than Devil's Thumb and the two nordic ski areas are very different.  Devil's Thumb is very spread out and even though there are hills, the are miles of flat open spaces.  Eldora is really on a hill and so the trails take you up into the hills.  I like both places, but I may like Eldora better.  The word "cross country" may not be appropriate for Eldora since there is much more a feeling of climbing and descending there and those who go there feel like they are in the woods and mountains.

Also, Eldora is right next to alpine skiing so some of the trails take the user onto the alpine runs which is really fun.




I also met a “kindred spirit” on the trails in Eldora on Sunday. Liz a speech pathologist from the Denver area wants to meet me at different Colorado nordic centers and also downhill ski with me at Ski Cooper. All I did was ask her to take my photo and we became instant friends!

People you meet on Nordic trails tend to stop and talk.  They are interested in hearing about your day on the trails and why you Nordic ski.  They like being out in the wilderness and seem to really enjoy hiking.

I like being able to go miles and miles while gliding and I absolutely love hiking up because I get to ski down!  I don't have to be in lift lines or on chairlifts ao I get the spend the entire time moving.



Liz - An Outdoor Person Who I Met at Eldora - a "Kindred Spirit" - We plan to ski together in March 2020!

At Devil's Thumb I met two couples.  One of the couples, Lou and Lorraine, were on vacation for a week from Pennsylvania.  Apparently there was not enough snow in P.A, so they had spent a week at YMCA's Snow Mountain Ranch. The other couple I met, were from the Denver area and were new to cross country skiing.  The week before they had nordic skied for the first time in Eldora, and had reserved an Airbnb for the weekend and were trying out Devil's Thumb.  We met on the most wonderful green trail, Double Pole.  At Eldora, I met a few groups of friends who were just enjoying being out in the wood together.  That is part of the fun too...just all the friendly people I meet while skiing.

I find that each time I'm nordic skiing I can't help but feel like I am on a mini-vacation.  Yes...it's one of my passions!


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Skiing In Breckenridge 1-14-2020

I had the BEST time ever skiing with my friends Maureen and Jim in Breckenridge 1-14-2020!   Skiing and skating are two of my favorite things to do.













Skating Outside in Woodland Park, Colorado - 1/15/2020

Today, January 15, 2020, I went skating outside in Woodland Park with my friends Larisa and Maureen.  It was so much fun!