The world and all its worries melt away when Beth Hubbell takes that first step onto the rink’s smooth surface.“Skating takes you away from everything else. It’s an escape. There’s so much craziness in the world. It lets you forget all that and leave it all behind,” she said.
Hubbell is a familiar face at Suburban Ice in East Lansing where the Ladies Silver Blades meet each Thursday morning throughout most of the year. She has been a member of the woman’s ice-skating club for at least the past 40 years, initially joining the club with several neighbors who carpooled to the weekly skate gatherings.
“I was a stay-at-home mom. I needed to get out,” Hubbell laughed. “I needed to do something.” Hubbell’s initial interest in the Ladies Silver Blades is a familiar story that is told by numerous club members: They had a passion for ice skatings children, fell out of the activity as they grew up and the responsibilities of life crept in, then the club rekindled that spark. Hubbell said the club makes her reflect on childhood memories of flooding backyards in the winter to create a makeshift ice rink or carrying her skates a half-mile through the brush to meet friends on a frozen pond.
“I’ve made a lot of new friends over the years,” she said of the club. “It’s great exercise. It’s great socialization. We’re kind of like a family here.” The origins of the Ladies Silver Blades date back to the early 1970s, according to current club President Jo Ann Seman.
“It’s been going on for quite some time. I think that, at the time, it started as just a bunch of women who loved to skate and get out and get some exercise, and they decided to form a group together,” Seman said. “The Lansing area has always been a big skating community.”
The club meets from 9:30-11:20 a.m. Thursdays from September through May at the East Lansing rink. It’s open to women ages 18 and up, although Seman noted younger members are few and far between because so many are busy working or raising families. Club membership is $78 annually, but Seman said guests can come and skate with the club twice for free.
“After that, if they still like us, they can join up,” she added with a laugh.
Membership has its perks. In addition to the regularly scheduled skates, the roughly 40 members of the club also host holiday parties, luncheons, an end-of-season party and a spring ice show. Plus, you don’t have to be an experienced skater to join.
“Some of us just try to stay upright,” joked club member Nancy Koob.“It’s open to all skill levels. That’s why we have two instructors,” Seman added.
Deb Gaultier serves as the head instructor for the club and husband Dave Gaultier serves as assistant coach. The pair have competed in adult national ice-dancing championships and help club members train for the spring ice show as well as provide lessons to members. Seman said the pair place an emphasis on safety for skaters and take time each week to work specifically with novice skaters as well as more advanced skaters. The coaches spend the last 15-20 minutes of each weekly gathering working with participants in the ice show on such things as formations. Although instruction is available for members, it’s not required.
“No one has to come and take lessons,” Seman said. “People can just come and skate and enjoy the company. We’re a social club too.”
That social aspect provides a big appeal to members. Approximately 25 members show up to skate on any given week. While many initially joined the club to stay active, the sense of community the club provides has kept them coming back.
“I was hooked the very first day I started,” said skater Laurel Howard, who joined the club in 2003 after a friend saw a newspaper article on the Ladies Silver Blades. “I come for both the skating and the camaraderie – coming back and skating with my friends.”
Seman has been with the Ladies Silver Blades since 2010, after she moved back to the area from Oakland County. She had been involved with a women’s fellowship group through her Royal Oak church and was looking for something similar in this area when she read about the club.
“I thought it would be something that I could do to get out and get some exercise, and I just fell in love with it. I love the ladies. They’re wonderful, they’re fun-loving and they love to be active,” she said. “I just love to skate. You feel free when you’re out there. It’s just something that I love to do.”
Being with a group of people who have a shared passion seems to bring out the best in everyone, Koob said.“We have a great group of ladies here and people just keep coming back.” For more information on the Ladies Silver Blades, visit ladiessilverblades.com.