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Ice skating is moving on ice by using ice skates. It can be done for a variety of reasons, including exercise, leisure, traveling, and various sports. Ice skating occurs both on specially prepared ice surfaces (arenas, tracks, parks), both indoors and outdoors, as well as on naturally occurring bodies of frozen water, such as ponds, lakes and rivers.
A study by Federico Formenti of the University of Oxford suggests that the earliest ice skating happened in southern Finland more than 3,000 years ago. Originally, skates were merely sharpened, flattened bone strapped to the bottom of the foot. Skaters did not actually skate on the ice, but rather glided on top of it. True skating emerged when a steel blade with sharpened edges was used. Skates now cut into the ice instead of gliding on top of it. Adding edges to ice skates was invented by the Dutch in the 13th or 14th century. These ice skates were made of steel, with sharpened edges on the bottom to aid movement. The construction of modern ice skates has stayed largely the same since then. In the Netherlands, ice skating was considered proper for all classes of people, as shown in many pictures by the Old Masters. In the 1600s, young nobles organized sleigh races on the canals near the palace at The Hague, sometimes at night by torchlight, often followed by dancing. Business slowed in the cold season, and when the lakes and canals froze over, everyone skated – young and old, men and women, peasants, and princes. A unity of classes is established through the excitement of the sport. The skaters glide by, hands clasped behind their backs and body bent slightly forward, or in couples with an arm around each other’s waist, or in long snakelike formations - the entire column of skaters leaning to the right and then the left, quickly, and in unison. Adding color to the scene, instead of wearing overcoats or furs, people skate in their ordinary indoor clothes with extra layers of wool underneath. Caparisoned horses, their headgear topped by a plume, draw painted wooden sleighs. Small children and the elderly are pushed along in armchairs on runners, while older children go tobogganing, propelling their vehicles with poles; or they practice skating by pushing a chair on the ice in front of them. Local skating champions included Cornelis le Fleur, Judith Jonannes and Marie Scholtus. The skates, twice the length of the foot, are wooden with metal blades curved upwards in front. Innkeepers set up tents on the edge of the ice and lit fires; here the skaters took a rest, had a drink and warmed their hands and feet before taking off again. At night, in the dark, some skaters went out onto unlit canals, traveling on skates. They would sometimes strap a long pole across their shoulders to hold them up if they fall through the ice. If the ice was in good condition, it is possible to skate from Amsterdam to Leiden in 1-1/4 hours. Competitions were organized, the most notable being a famous circuit of towns which in favorable years could reach more than 125 miles. On 19 December 1676, on a Saturday, six racers set off from Zaandam before daybreak; they traverse Amsterdam, Naarden and Muiden over the icy surface of the canals, and from there set off across the frozen Zuider Zee towards Monnikendam, Medemblik and Alkmaar; and by 8:30 p.m., they were back in Zaandam