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Lacey Middlestead
ice skating in Montana

Lacey MiddlesteadLacey Middlestead is a Montana native and freelance writer currently living in Helena, Mont. She loves meeting new people and helping share their stories. When she’s not busy writing articles for newspapers like the Independent Record and Helena Vigilante, she can usually be found indulging in her second greatest passion–playing in the Montana wilderness. She loves skiing and snowmobiling in the winter and four wheeling, hiking, boating, and riding dirt bikes in the summer.

Do you remember the first time you tried ice skating? It’s a strangely phenomenal sensation that first time you glide effortlessly across a sheet of ice on two thin blades. Most of us, if we start skating early, have just begun to master the art of walking when suddenly we are strapped into these odd little shoes with blades on the bottom and are told we are going to use them on ice. The concept and movement of skating is hard to grasp at first but entirely unforgettable once mastered.

I was fortunate to have learned to skate on an outdoor rink—at Memorial Park to be exact. What it lacked in fancy stadium seating and Zambonis it made up for with hot chocolate from the warming house and a blue-bird sky to skate under. I have fond memories of skating at Memorial with my dad when I was little. I remember sitting in the warming house with my foot between his knees as he laced up my figure skates for me. Once out on the ice, I swished around in all my snow gear trying to pick up speed but ultimately spending a lot of time sitting on my padded rear end on the ice. Memorial was where I learned to skate, first held a hockey stick in my hands, and developed a love for Montana winters.

This past Sunday afternoon my husband and I found ourselves driving to my old skating grounds at Memorial to take some friends’ 4-year-old daughter skating. We were privileged to have been present for Camille’s very first skating session at the indoor rink a few weeks earlier, but I thought she needed to experience the joy of skating under the Big Sky so we had invited her to go to Memorial with us.

When we finally pulled up to the rink we spotted Camille waiting for us outside the warming house all plumped up in her snow gear. We grabbed our skates and her mitten-hands and headed inside to pay. It was like walking back in time when I first stepped inside the warming house. Not much had changed since my dad first took me there when I was about Camille’s age. There was a long wooden bench running along the edge of the room where you could sit and tie your skates and a cubed shelf in one corner that housed all of the various rental skates. And of course there was the front counter where you paid and picked up your hot cocoa on the especially cold days. I was delighted to also see a tasty variety of crackers, chips and candy available for purchase. I had a feeling we would all be needing some of that when we were done.

After getting all of our skates laced up, we teetered across the carpet towards the door leading outside. The rink was packed. But with temperatures in the high 20s and sunshine beaming down, what kid wouldn’t have wanted to be out skating? Standing behind Camille, with my hands wrapped around her waist, we pushed off together on to the ice. She immediately started giggling hysterically and rapidly swinging her legs back and forth. She was certainly loving life.

Teaching a kid to skate is a lot harder than I would’ve imagined. You don’t dare let go of them for fear they’ll smack their face onto the ice. And the notion of gliding on your feet is very difficult for them to understand. Camille seemed convinced she could sprint across the ice. After a while, we quit trying so hard and just focused on holding her up so she could run, jump and dance any way she wanted. Because honestly, at the end of the day, a kid simply enjoying themselves at an activity is far more important than how well they do at it.

It turns out, Camille was most interested in scooting about on her hands and knees and eating the snow and ice chips kicked up from skate blades than actually skating. But I smiled to myself and was proud of her anyways. She had given it a solid 4-year old try and at least she was playing outside and enjoying the Montana winter. The day finished with the three of us sitting inside the warming house with our skates kicked off passing around a bag of Cheetos. While not the most successful day of ice skating, it was a perfect winter day in my book.


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