Steamboat may have trademarked the moniker “Ski Town USA” but there’s more to winter sports than skiing. Just ask Kelli Standekar, Skating Director for the Steamboat Skating Club, whose number of participants have more than doubled in the last few years. “This year, we started with 51 skaters. For a long time, we were in the range of 20, so it’s really grown,” she says.
The club was founded in 1994 with a focus on synchronized skating and then switched to a style that was more performative in 2017. “They did big ice shows, almost like theatre on ice,” Standekar says. When she moved to Steamboat Springs in 2020, the club shifted to more traditional figure skating. “We’re working on skills and trying to have more of a higher-level athletic program while still keeping that performance aspect that everyone enjoys,” Standekar says.
The club works with kids aged 5-18 at Howelsen Ice Arena and is unique in terms of offering group classes in addition to the more traditional private, one-on-one coaching approach. “Even for the higher levels, we offer group classes which is unusual in the realm of figure skating. It’s an individual sport with private coaching,” Stendekar says. Part of that is practical—Steamboat currently only has one sheet of ice and time is relatively limited, so this approach maximizes ice time and coaching staff. But there are many benefits to the skaters, who build a real camaraderie by training together. “Our kids act like a team, which is not very common in our sport. They really care about each other, and they like to see each other succeed. They have the benefit of cheering each other on and picking each other up when they fall. They also often grow up and progress together, through all the years and the levels,” Standekar says.
The club still performs an annual ice show every spring with three different show times this year. “It’s a two-hour long production so it’s a lot of work, but it’s super fun. We have costumes, lighting, props, and sets—the whole nine. And the kids love to perform,” Standekar says. This year the club is performing “Beauty and the Beast” March 22 – 23 at the Howelsen Ice Arena in addition to two fall fundraisers, one at Halloween, which includes an exhibition for the kids to perform, and one during the winter holiday.
Otherwise, skaters compete statewide, typically once a month. Competition is year-round, but the club is flexible to accommodate kids who also ski competitively in the wintertime. “We like for our kids to be able to participate in as many sports as possible, which is a strong ethos in Steamboat. We support that because it helps to prevent the kind of burnout that can happen when kids specialize in one sport from an early age.”
The club follows the US Figure Skating Program and its progression through the Compete USA competitive levels. Kids new to the sport can begin with the Learn to Skate program that’s offered in conjunction with the City of Steamboat Springs. Skaters are tested every 6-8 weeks to assess their level and to see if they’re ready to progress.
The Skating Club will host their annual “Skate with the Grinch” event at Howelsen Ice Arena December 29 – 30. “It’s a great time for the public to come skate with Santa and the Grinch and to enjoy the ice and celebrate the holiday season,” Standekar says. Regardless of the season, the Steamboat Skating Club is a true gift. //steamboatskatingclub.org