Ice Spectacle, January 2018

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Ice Spectacle--People have been ice skating for thousands of years. The oldest known ice skates date to about 3000 BC. The runners were made of cattle bones. The earliest known description of ice skating comes from a biography of Thomas Beckett written in 1180. It describes how ice skaters used two poles to propel themselves across the ice. In the 13th or 14th century, the Dutch invented steel runners with sharp edges. These slid easily across the ice, so the poles were no longer needed, and skaters could skate in curves and circles. By the 1600ís, skating was a hobby among the nobility of Europe.

There is even a patron saint of ice skating--Saint Lidwina. She lived in Holland from 1380-1433 AD. At the age of 15, she fell while ice skating and became very sick. She began to fast and pray for recovery. She never got better, but she became a famous healer and holy woman, and eventually she was made a saint.

Ice skaters could certainly use having someone look after them. There is always some danger in skating on frozen ponds and lakes. If the ice is not thick enough and a person breaks through, it may not be possible to get back out of the frigid water. In a skating rink, skaters still run the danger of hurting themselves by falling or cutting themselves on an ice skate blade. Even with a patron saint, itís a good idea to be careful while skating.

Many people skate for fun. Extravagant Ice shows tour the country and play for large audiences. Ice skates are also used in a number of sports. Figure skating is judged on skatersí ability to execute complicated spins and jumps with names like toe loops, lutzes, salchows, and axels. Ice dancing is scored on a pairsí artistic style and fancy footwork as they skate close together. Speed skating involves racing various distances as individuals or relay teams. Hockey is probably the best known sport played on ice skates, but there are other skating games as well, including Bandy and Ringette.

Other ice sports donít involve skating. Curling is an ancient Scottish sport in which teams of four players slide a granite stone at the opponentís goal and then attempt to control it by sweeping the ice with brooms. When lakes are frozen over, sailors put runners on boats and go sailing across the ice. Some fishing enthusiasts go right out on the ice, drill a hole, and drop in their lines. Another sport that has developed since the 1970ís is ice climbing. It is rather like rock climbing or mountain climbing except that the climbers climb right up the face of frozen waterfalls. It can be very dangerous, and requires careful training, since ice is different from rock. However, climbers donít have to worry that they are damaging the fragile environment with their axes and picks as they climb. In the spring the frozen waterfall will melt anyway, and then freeze again the next winter.

Another amazing use of ice is ice sculpture. Using chisels or chain saws, ice artists carve large blocks of ice into intricate shapes of people, animals, and buildings that can be enjoyed for a few hours before they begin to melt. Of course ice is also important for making shaved ice, ice cream, and for keeping lemonade cold. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate ice.

Coming in February 2018:

Let's Pretend it's Summer Day!

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