A year ago, Kristina Paulick hated ice skating and Mo Lodovici hadn't been on a rink in two decades.
Now they're mastering new skating skills each week and enjoying the exercise, thanks to the Treadwell Arena and the Juneau Skating Club's Basic Skills group classes.
Today marks the first anniversary of the Douglas arena's grand opening ceremony, which gave Juneau residents their first ice sports facility free of weather woes.
Paulick and Lodovici are two of more than 100 students of all ages currently enrolled in classes with the Juneau Skating Club, one of several Treadwell user groups that have the facility operating at near-capacity.
"It's a reflection of the needs of the community," JSC instructor Randy Rice said of high participation in rink activities. "It's a great fit in this community, for fitness and recreation in this climate."
During one of the JSC's class sessions earlier this month, the Treadwell rink was partitioned into several sections by lines of orange cones.
At either end, teens and adults practiced skating on one leg, slicing slaloms around the cones and skating backward.
In the middle, younger skaters did "swizzles" - bowing their knees and moving their feet in a wave pattern to propel themselves across the rink under the watch of Beth Rhoden-Dorn, one of 10 JSC instructors.
Tamara Campbell, 4, was among those working with Rhoden-Dorn. Tamara's mom, Judy Campbell, said her daughter used to skate occasionally with the family at Twin Lakes - but did not show much improvement. Tamara likes the new rink, adores the club's instructors, and since starting lessons last October she has made great progress.
"I've seen leaps and bounds for her in skating," Judy Campbell said.
Paulick, 13, is starting to do leaps and bounds on the rink. She started coming to the rink soon after it opened, and now is working on salchow and waltz jumps.
"I feel like I've been doing it for two or three years," Paulick said of her comfort and skill level on the ice.
Lodovici's first time on ice was 20 years ago, but she had a bad experience and didn't get back on a rink until last April. With her son involved in activities at the arena, Lodovici started taking classes.
"It's been a very positive experience," she said. "(The instructors) are very helpful, very friendly."
Treadwell skating classes began under the auspices of the Juneau-Douglas Ice Association, which also oversees youth hockey.
Last December, the Juneau Skating Club was formed with a focus on skating skills education and development. Its Basic Skills Program includes many levels of group classes, based on United States Figure Skating Association guidelines, though lessons also apply to hockey and recreational skating.
The JSC also offers a power and conditioning class and figure skating instruction, and instructors have found interest in classes from skaters of all ages.
"There's a huge desire to learn," Rhoden-Dorn said. "We thought we'd be inundated with kids, but we're also flooded with adults."
The JSC must balance rink time with other user groups - and it's at a premium. But Rhoden-Dorn said she is excited to use the time they have to advance skating in Juneau.
"We're thrilled to be able to bring our favorite sport to the community," she said. "We've been able to fill this huge niche no one knew was empty."
For students like Paulick, who once shunned sports and exercise but now delights in her time on the ice, skating's value is clear.
"It's pretty much changed my life," she said.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
Register for next round of lessons
Registration is under way for the next round of the Juneau Skating Club's Basic Skills Program, which starts next month.
The course includes seven weekly one-hour classes, with a choice of Thursday evenings (youths and adults, begins March 11), Friday evenings (youths and adults, begins March 12) or Saturday afternoons (adults only, begins March 13). The cost is $85.
Registration forms can be picked up and dropped off at the Treadwell Arena, or can be completed on the Web at www.juneauskatingclub.org.
The JSC also will be holding ice dancing and precision skating workshops on Saturday, March 4. More information is available at the arena or at the club's Web site. The JSC can be contacted at 586-4436.