Beginners celebrate the birthday of the CanSkate program

The Skate Canada program is offered through Skate Ponoka and was celebrated with balloons on the ice and an abundance of cake — a big celebration for a program that Chidlow said has improved the students’ sense of self.

Rylan Hagemann and Gina Mercer skate during the CanSkate 25th birthday celebration Nov. 25 at the ice rink. Skate Ponoka celebrated the anniversary of the program that teaches beginners the skating fundamentals.

By Jasmine Franklin

Children skated around a decorated sheet of ice at the arena Nov. 25 in honor of the 25th birthday for the CanSkate program.

“There is such a strong membership here for a small town,” said Marilyn Chidlow, a Skate Canada past president. “It’s a very dedicated program.”

The Skate Canada program is offered through Skate Ponoka and was celebrated with balloons on the ice and an abundance of cake — a big celebration for a program that Chidlow said has improved the students’ sense of self.

CanSkate is a learn-to-skate program targeted to beginners. It teaches the fundamental skating skills, and most kids pick up skating in no time, said Alice Nieuwland, Skate Ponoka president.

“The first thing the kids learn is how to stand on skates, then they learn to walk with them, Nieuwland said. “This program has sustained its strength because of the great group of volunteers. It’s unified, it’s strong and everyone works hard.”

Chidlow was president of Skate Canada from 2000 to 2006, and she is particularly proud of Ponoka’s CanSkate program.

“It’s incredible,” Chidlow said. “Over the years we have a lot of successes come out of this program, such as Kurt Browning. This program especially is known for its Skating Carnival.”

Carnival is the finale for the program, featuring routines and solos accompanied with lights — it’s a show that Chidlow and Nieuwland agreed sets the Ponoka CanSkate program apart from others.

“It’s something all the kids and parents look forward too,” Nieuwland said. “Everyone gets excited about it.”

Skate Ponoka has around 120 skaters all together, 51 of those are CanSkate students. The rest are test skaters learning to figure skate.

CanSkate has two coaches, Donna Horlock and Lois Spate, accompanied by eight teaching aides. The kids skate for one hour and practice skating forward, backward, stopping, turning, jumping and spins.

“It’s a fun, social and learning activity for the kids,” Nieuwland said. “It teaches them co-ordination and balance.”

“It also gives them a sense of confidence,” said Chidlow.

For more information on Skate Ponoka visit and for further information about Skate Canada visit

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