Starter guide to mastering movement skills on ice and snow

Starter guide to mastering movement skills on ice and snow

Now that the cold weather is here, it’s time to think about all the fun activities that winter has to offer. This leads us to part three in our four-part environmental series: building physical literacy on ice and snow. As we did previously with water and land, we’ll take a look at mastering the fundamental movement skills in a different setting, in this case, various slick winter surfaces.

Why it’s important to master physical literacy on ice and snow

Living in Canada, there is always one thing we can be certain of: it’s going to get cold. And for most of the country that means there will be lots of ice and snow. Even if you’re residing in temperate Vancouver, you’re never far from mountains and snow, or even the ice rink. So to stay active outdoors for a good chunk of the year, it’s necessary to learn how to navigate the slippery and slushy white stuff.

Once again, it’s all about building on the foundation of movement skills already learned on solid ground. If you can run, hop, throw, catch, jump, and balance your body in various ways, then you can learn to push, glide, and stop on ice, as well as slide, jump, and climb in snow.

Getting started

There are so many activities to do on ice and snow, but the most common that likely come to mind are skating, skiing, and hockey. But before you can fully participate in these activities, you need to first develop the fundamental movement skills specific to moving on ice and snow. We break down what those skills are for you.


These are the basic movements of ice skating, but they also apply to skiing as well. Before you even strap on skates, you can have your child mimic these movements on a smooth floor while wearing socks, or try a pair of carpet skates. Have them lean forward slightly and push their feet across the floor. Then once you get to the rink, they’ll be better prepared to move on ice. Have them hold onto you, or a chair, for the those first sure-to-be wobbly steps on ice skates.

Stop-Turn around

Once you get moving on ice skates, the next step is learning to stop. While moving, stand straight with your feet side-by-side and then push them out to one side. This hockey-stop movement works for both skates and downhill skiis. Once stopped, step carefully and turn around to push off in the opposite direction.

Slalom slide

Once pushing, gliding, and stopping are learned, kids can practice a more advanced move: the slalom slide. This is the key move to skiing smoothly downhill, but the movement can be done on ice skates as well. Once you have forward momentum, stand with legs shoulder-width apart, lean forward slightly and bend your knees, then turn both ankles to one side, then the other, making a swivel pattern. This move also helps with balance and coordination.


Snowshoeing, hiking, building a snowman – all of these are fun winter activities that don’t require as much specialized equipment or a trip to a recreational facility. You just need outdoor space and some deep snow. Taking big steps and learning how it feels to move and balance in deep snow are essential skills to navigate our snowy country and the earlier kids learn them, the better. So strap on a pair of winter boots and get moving in the snow!

Of course, some parents may feel that some of these skills are best taught by a professional, in which case it’s a good idea to find a skating or skiing program to join. Check out our tips for finding a quality figure skating program or speed skating program.

When kids learn to master these movement skills on ice and snow, winter no longer becomes an excuse to stay inside; instead, it opens up a whole world of fun activity for the whole family. We are lucky to live in a country with vast and wonderful wintery landscapes, so it’s essential to embrace the cold and enjoy activities that can lead to a lifetime of fitness and fun!

2 responses to “Starter guide to mastering movement skills on ice and snow

  1. Recently I have been getting into ice skating and I wanted to look up some information. I really appreciated how this article talked about building on the foundation of movement skills already learned on the solid ground. This is something that I have never thought about but I will have to keep that in mind as I continue.

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