10 great places to cut a fine figure eight
Warning to winter couch potatoes: Figure skating at the 2006 Winter Olympics (Feb. 10-26) is coming to a TV near you — and you just might get motivated to take to the ice for a Salchow jump or two. "I'm always excited to watch Olympic skating," says Kristi Yamaguchi, 1992 women's figure skating Olympic gold medalist. "Skating has so much emotion in it. It's not an athlete crossing a finish line. It's more theatrical, and the personalities on the ice make it thrilling and dramatic. Now, looking back on it, I'm more in awe of it than ever." She shares with USA TODAY's Shawn Sell some favorite public spots to glide across the ice.
Oakland Ice CenterOakland
Featuring two huge indoor rinks — an Olympic-size figure skating rink and an NHL-size one — the OIC offers public skating, hockey programs and figure-skating instruction year-round. "My Olympic coach is here, and when I'm home in California, I still skate here," Yamaguchi says. "I might even take my 2-year-old out on the ice soon." 510-268-9000; oaklandice.com
RecZone Raleigh, N.C.
This indoor ice rink offers public hockey and skating, plus instruction for both. "And it's the official practice rink for the Carolina Hurricanes," says Yamaguchi, whose husband, Bret Hedican, plays on the team. "I also like to skate here when I'm preparing for a show or an event." 919-754-0441; www.reczone.net
The Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center New York
Billed as the world's most famous outdoor ice skating rink and open until April, "this obviously is an icon, and a beautiful, special place to skate," Yamaguchi says. "On my first trip to New York, I was 14 years old and I just had to skate here — had to. It's an incredible experience." 212-332-7655; rockefellercenter.com
Incredible ICE Coral Springs, Fla.
This 75,000-square-foot facility, "with an indoor Olympic figure skating rink (and adjoining NHL-size rink), is a great place to practice," Yamaguchi says. The official home of the Florida Panthers offers lessons, public skating, adult and youth hockey programs and competitive figure-skating programs. 954-341-9956; incredibleice.com
The Depot Skating RinkMinneapolis
"Located right downtown, this building was once an old train station," Yamaguchi says. "It's a unique place featuring a beautiful indoor rink with glass windows so skaters can see outside and onto the street. It's also one of the warmer rinks with a decent temperature." 612-339-2253; thedepotminneapolis.com/rink.htm
International Skating Center of Connecticut Simsbury, Conn.
"I rehearsed for Stars on Ice here," Yamaguchi says of the twin-rink facility that caters to competitors as well as the public. "It's a great indoor rink featuring a high level of competitive ice" — the comprehensive figure-skating program focuses on freestyle, pairs and dance and includes off-ice classes and conditioning. 860-651-5400; isccskate.com
Riverfront Park Ice Palace Spokane, Wash.
Open from October to March, this accessible, 100-acre urban park's outdoor rink is located in downtown Spokane. Says Yamaguchi: "It's a perfect place for families to skate together, very pretty and not too different from Wollman in New York." 509-456-4386; spokaneriverfrontpark.com
Wollman Rink New York
Located outdoors in Central Park and ringed by Manhattan's skyscrapers, this 33,000-square-foot rink was opened in 1950. "It's a beautiful and a very different skating experience," Yamaguchi says, "because you have to deal with the cold, the wind, uneven ice and other elements." 212-439-6900; centralparknyc.org/virtualpark/southend/wollmanrink
Sun Valley Skating Center Sun Valley, Idaho
"There is an indoor rink open year-round in this beautiful ski community," says Yamaguchi, "but the outdoor rink is situated right near the lodge so you can see the mountains and skiers as you skate." Olympic silver medalist Linda Fratianne is part of the professional staff that teaches group and private lessons. 208-622-2194; www.sunvalley.com/resort_rec/resort_skating.cfm
Alltel Ice Den Scottsdale, Ariz.
"The Phoenix Coyotes practice here," Yamaguchi says, "but this large (120,000-square-foot), two-rink indoor facility allows more ice time for everyone." In addition to public skating, Den staffers offer hockey programs, private figure-skating instruction and group lessons. 480-585-7465; www.coyotesice.com/publicskating/index.php