Competitive Figure Skating Comes to the Flathead Valley

By Beacon Staff

“Be confident,” coached Jennifer Boye as 17-year-old Emily Wilson stepped onto the ice. For this 15-minute compulsory test, Wilson executed technical maneuvers on her skates—inside edges, outside edges, forwards, backwards, turns, and circles. No music played. No crowd cheered. Just the click of her blades striking the ice as three judges assessed every move—body position, hand placement, and balance.

Like all Whitefish skaters, this is the first time in her 12 years of ice skating that she’s competed on her home turf. Whitefish Figure Skating Club has always traveled to British Columbia, Wyoming, and even Arizona for events. But this year, the club is hosting its first competition at Stumptown Ice Den in Whitefish. “It’s been in the works since the better part of last year,” said organizer Beth Sobba. “But we’re hoping for annual events from here on out.”

More than 50 athletes from Montana, Wyoming, Canada and Idaho – both male and female – showed up for the club’s first invitational. The youngest competitors are 4 and 5 years old; the oldest are late teens. The competition, which started Friday with the compulsory tests, is sanctioned by the United States Figure Skating Association. It continues at 4 p.m. with opening ceremonies, competitions and a team event.

In addition to compulsories, skaters compete in artistic and freeskate on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 11:30 a.m to 5 p.m. “Those are the cool musical events,” noted Sobba. The artistic skating is judged on its artistry and interpretation of the music. The freeskate, which has music accompaniment without lyrics, is judged on skill level. “It has the big jumps and the tough moves,” said Sobba. “That’s what people are used to seeing on TV.”

The event concludes Saturday night with a free figure skating exhibition from 7 – 8 p.m.

As Wilson performs her compulsories, her mother Margie watches intently. “Since she’s a senior, this is a bittersweet competition,” she said. Standing at the rink’s edge, Coach Boye tracks Wilson’s every move with her eyes. She nods a silent “good” after each segment in support, and 15-year-old teammate Carly Schwickert adds a thumbs up.