What will my child learn in skating lessons?

Learn to Skate is a nationally structured, successful program to learn the basics of skating. Skaters progress through the Learn to Skates (LTS) levels of skating from Snow Plow Sam 1-4, Basic Skills 1-6, then  PreFree Skate and Free Skate 1-6. There are required skills they will master before the instructor passes them to the next level. With your LTS membership, you will receive a book with the required skills for each level and a handy way to track your progress. Membership also includes sport accident insurance. You will also receive the Learn to Skate magazine. (It is helpful to keep your LTS membership number where you can easily access it as you will need it again to renew, register for competitions, etc.) For more information, please look at their website: Learn to Skate

How to get started?

Learn to skate has a handy reference on how to prepare. LTS Getting Started

Class Terminology

Off-ice Lesson: includes stretching, warm up exercises, balance, core strengthening, simulation of skating moves.

Elements Class: teaches the basics of skating. Each levels has a list of skills that must be perfected prior to advancing.

Power Class: designed to strengthen and condition while on the ice.

Music/Show: class designed to introduce skaters to the art of skating to music. This will be a group number to be performed at the December show or the spring show.

Practice Ice: no organized coaching involved—just practice. Each Tuesday and Saturday lesson package includes some practice ice time on those days, as well as some time on Friday evening.

Friday Practice Ice: This is practice ice is included in the skater package. The Friday evening club practice ice is divided by skater level for safety. 

Sunday Practice Ice: This is additional practice is that can be purchased in addition to lesson packages. It is often utilized for private lessons and for preparing for competition. As with Friday practice ice, it is divided by skater level for safety if needed.


The club provides free skate rental for the first year of lessons. Both hockey and figure skates are available. It is highly recommended that skaters begin with figure skates and then transition to hockey if that is the track they pursue. Subsequent years, the skates may be rented, or you may want to purchase. Used beginner skates are fairly easy to find and reasonably priced. Benefits of having your own skates are they are likely better quality, and they may be sharpened and maintained as you prefer. Many families have extra/outgrown skates they would like to sell, so it's worth asking fellow members. 

How do I know which skates to purchase?

It seems intimidating, but the beginner skates are fairly simple. It's important not to "over boot" your skater with something they don't need yet. The coaches and some of the more experienced skaters and parents can steer you in the right direction.  Directors Trish (605) 354-6710 and Michelle (605) 680-5134 are willing to help. For beginner skaters, the most common brands are Riedell--Riedell Boot Chart and Jackson Jackson Boot Chart.  (Scroll down on Jackson page to see recommended boots for Learn to Skate.) These charts can also be found on the Riedell and Jackson websites and can be helpful when looking for used skates. Riedell, Jackson and Edea are the most common basic skates, but there are many brands.  Also, many skating families have used skates to sell, so please let other parents know what size you are looking for. Hockey Headquarters in Sioux Falls has a good selection of new and used skates as well. Trying the different brands at their store can help narrow down which has the better fit for your skater. Call ahead (605) 336-7131 and ask when Julianne would be available as she is more specialized in figure skates at that store. 

Learn to Skate has the following information on their website: Guide to Purchasing Skates

How often should skates be sharpened?

Blades need to be sharpened every 6-8 weeks or 30-40 hours depending on use.  In Mitchell, contact Cody at 605-990-3667, or in Sioux Falls, Hockey Headquarters ask for Julianne: (605) 336-7131.  Please note: depending on how the skates are sharpened, sometimes skaters have trouble stopping once blades are freshly sharpened. Careful!

What to wear for lessons?

Entry level:  skaters in Snow Plow Sam need to wear a helmet if they are under 5.  A rounded front bike helmet will work.  Learn to Skate has the following recommendations about helmets: LTS About Safety Helmets

Dress warm in waterproof gear like snow pants or layered stretchy pants and coat.  Wear tall but thin socks to help avoid blisters. Thin socks are needed as the boots need to fit snugly. LTS How to dress like a skater

Basic Levels:  gloves, hat, hair pulled back, layered stretchy pants and a coat.  Long thin socks or nylons for snug boot fit. As skaters advance and do leg lifts and spins, etc, less bulky clothing can allow for more freedom of movement. 

How will I know how my skater is progressing?

The coaches will do a mid-term evaluation of each skater to determine what skills need to improve for the skater to pass the level. It is possible for a skater to pass a level at the mid-term evaluation, but often skaters advance at the end of a session after the final evaluation. Once a skater passes, they will receive a cloth badge, a copy of their test form, and will have their picture taken (and posted if the parents are OK with that.)

What can I do if my child doesn't pass a level?

It can be very discouraging for a skater when they don't pass an evaluation. It is important to remind skaters that learning to skate is a process, and there is a reason each skill must be accomplished before moving on as it just keeps building.  You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run! As parents, it's easy to focus on accomplishments especially when we are paying the bill! However, it is important to remember that skating should be fun for your child.  LTS has the following guideline for encouraging a skater who did not pass an evaluation.  LTS Encouraging a Skater  

Does my skater need private skating lessons?

At the youngest levels, a private lesson isn’t necessary but can be helpful. What is most beneficial in the beginner stages is simply getting the skater on practice ice in addition to the scheduled group lessons.  As the child progresses and is considering entering a competition, then a private lesson is very beneficial as the coach will design a program with the music and necessary elements. Depending on the coach’s experience, private lessons range from $10-$25 per half hour lesson. 

Is my child required to compete?

No, skaters are not required to compete, but they do have the opportunity to compete even at the youngest levels.  The closest competitions are in Mitchell, Rapid City, Watertown, Pierre, and Sioux Falls. These will be added to the calendar as the information becomes available.

The 8th Annual Palace Ice Festival in Mitchell will be held Jan 12-14, 2024. There are a variety of categories—individual, duets, ensembles, etc. The coaches or directors can help explain what categories your child may compete. Here is a link to the Compete USA Competition Manual 2023-2024. Please note that our January competition will follow the rules/requirements listed as Sept 1-Dec 31, 2023 as our competition was already approved prior to September 1st when the new rules were implemented. (Confusing? Yes most definitely!) If you attend competitions next spring, pay special attention as the requirements will change once the Jan 1st rules are utilized. The new rules will combine PreFree Skate through Free Skate 6, Beginner and High Beginner into "Aspire 1-4" for competition entries. Your coach should be well aware of the changes and will assist you in registering your competitor appropriately.

Are there other performances?

The Mitchell Figure Skating Club has a December show (December 10, 2023) and a spring show scheduled for March 3, 2024.  Skaters are not required but are encouraged to participate. The lesson packages include practice time for a group number for the show. It is a great opportunity for extended family members and friends to watch the kids and their new skills. 

Competitions: How to get started

Any level can compete. Here are some suggestions:  6 weeks or more before the first competition find a coach (see coaches page), choose a song (and have it cut to appropriate length), order an outfit (amazon works well)

Follow this link for more exact details Competition "How to..."

How do I view/sign up for competitions available in our area?

1. Compete USA competitions--which is most common for the beginner up to Juvenile levels--can be found on the Learn to Skate website. www.learntoskate.com. On the home page, look to the left upper corner for the 3 dashes/bars by the Learn to Skate Logo. Click on the bars, and a drop down menu will appear. Scroll down to "Events in Your Area" and click on that. Available competitions should be listed. 

2. Competitions are also listed on www.usfsaonline.org. Log into your account (your LTS number should work). Go to the top left by the USFS logo. Click on the the three bars to get the drop down menu. Click on "Events" then EMS (Event Management System). Search competition. This is where bigger competitions such as Omaha will be listed. EMS page

3. If the sponsoring club utilizes Entryeeze, the competition will be listed there as well. Go to Entryeeze.com. Instead of "find your home club," look to the left side where it has "Skaters" Register for (or login to) a competition". Click on the "Start Here." Select a state and the available competitions that are registered with EntryEeze will appear. Not all competitions use entryeeze. 

Competition scoring in 6.0 Judging--how are places determined?

I hear the Term "No-Test" and USFS test. What does that mean? What are the levels and why so confusing?

The skater advances through Snow Plow Sam, Basic 1 through 6, then pre free skate, then free skate 1 through 6. At this level, the skater has passed the Learn to Skate Curriculum according to a LTS certified coach. The next level is the United States Figure Skating(USFS) test levels. At this point, the skater must pass official tests by USFS judges to advance. If a skater has passed all free skate levels but has not yet tested, they are referred to as “no test” level. 

Once in the USFS levels, Skaters may test in any or all of the following specialties:

  1. Skating Skills (Previously Moves in the Field)
  2. Singles (Previously Free Skate)
  3. Pattern Dance or Solo Pattern Dance
  4. Free Dance or Solo Free Dance
  5. Pairs
  6. Figures

In 2023, the USFSA changed the names of the classes and levels.  Below are the two tracks most commonly tested. The Skating Skills (previously Moves in the Field) emphasize control and edges of the blades and patterns. The Singles test (previously Free Skate Test) adds the jumps and spins and artistry to music. Below is the progression through the USFS levels for Singles and Skating Skills.


SINGLES and SKATING SKILLS test levels                          
                                                                                      Previous terminology
                  Pre-Preliminary                                 (Pre-Preliminary)
                  Preliminary                                           (Preliminary)
                  Pre Bronze                                             (Pre-Juvenile)
                  Bronze                                                     (Juvenile)
                  Pre-Silver                                              (Intermediate)
                  Silver                                                       (Novice)
                  Pre-Gold                                               (Junior)
                  Gold                                                         (Senior)


Why so confusing? I have absolutely no idea! The new terminology is hopefully easier to remember. Note: If you refer to the USFSA rulebook, not all terminology has been updated yet as of July.