OKAY, YOU SAY you tried ice skating once, when you were 13, and it didn't work. You spent half the time skating on your ankles, and the other half on your fanny. It's time to give it another try. Skating is simple. You don't need Ray-Bans, you don't need lift tickets, and the lines aren't nearly as long as on the slopes. All you need are a decent pair of skates and a patch of ice.
Besides, your ankles really aren't weak. Trust me. You just need the right pair of skates. Here's some advice on renting, buying and using them, courtesy of Kris Myers-Turley, whose company, KMT Inc., offers lessons for skaters of all levels and needs, including the deaf.
* In choosing your skate size, always get one size smaller than your shoe size. Skates are supposed to fit snugly. As long as your toes aren't curling up and your feet aren't turning blue, you should be in good shape.
* Wear thin socks or tights, nylon or cotton. Wool is too thick; your skates are thick enough to ward off frostbite. If you get cold, drink hot chocolate and think about Tahiti.
* You could buy your skates at a department store, but it's better to go to a store that specializes in skates. You'll get a more durable, supportive boot with a sturdier, sharper blade, not to mention a better fit. Among the specialty shops with good skates are Caravan Surf, Skate and Cycle in College Park (441-2020) and Skater's Paradise in Alexandria (660-6525). Some good affordable brands include Riedell, CCM and Hyde.
* If your kids' feet are still growing, or if you're not yet convinced you want to train for the Ice Capades, you should rent your skates. The rinks around town generally offer two types for rental and you can specify which you'd like. The blue plastic ones are superior by far. The tan suede ones offer about as much support as tying baggies around your feet and sticking butter knives on the bottoms.
* If you rent skates and find your feet tilting in, you may have a screw loose. Literally. Check the screws on the soles of your skates to make sure they're securely fastened.
So now you've got a good pair of skates, your laces are tied tightly, and you're ready to glide. You step gingerly onto the ice, picturing yourself as Dorothy Hamill Hamill-cameling (a spin named after her) across the ice. But the ice feels weird, you feel awkward and a thousand people are buzzing by.
Relax. You can get the hang of it.
A variety of rinks offer group and private lessons. But if you're determined to do it yourself, or if you've promised to take your kids, here are a few tips for beginners:
* Don't wave your arms around like a Cuisinart blade. Keep your arms outstretched about waist level, a little in front of you.
* Don't stare at your feet as you skate. They're not nearly as interesting as Rambo onrentals about to careen into you from the side. In crowded rinks it's particularly important, in terms of self-preservation, to be aware of what's going on around you.
* Bend your knees. Don't ask me why. It just works better that way. If your knees are stiff, you'll stick your fanny out and look ridiculous and probably hit your toe pick (the jagged points on the top of your blade) and fall and die. Just kidding.
* If you feel an inevitable fall coming on (someone else's fault, of course), don't try to break your fall by slamming your hands down on the ice; you may break more than your fall. Instead, keep your arms up, squat down, and fall on one half of your fanny, to avoid bruising your tailbone.
* Ignore the showoffs in the middle spinning and leaping around. They've been practicing for years. Besides, they're probably lousy tennis players and skiers.