Many figure skating fans agree that the most exciting portion of figure skating routines are the ice skating jumps. These high-flying athletic moves are the ultimate expression of a skater’s ability. Ice skating jumps come in two varieties, rotational and positional. Positional jumps are short jumps that display an artistic position in the air. The true measure of a figure skating routine is partly based on rotational jumps.
The type of rotational jump is based on two factors: the number of rotations the skater makes in the air, and which edge of the skating blade the skater uses to take off and land. Another classification is whether the jumps are toe-assisted, done by digging the ridged toe pick of one skate into the ice as a take off boost, or edge jumps, which do not use the toe pick. Most jumps are done with a counterclockwise rotation, as in the examples below.
Toe loops are considered one of the easier ice skating jumps in professional competitions. They are launched from the back outside edge of the right skate, while using the toe of the other skate for an extra vault. Double and triple toe loops are often performed in jumping combinations, a requirement in many competitions. Since the beginning of the 21st century, quad-revolution jumps have become required elements of men’s competitive competitions. Quad toe loops seem to be the most frequently attempted version of a quad jump.
Flips use the inside back edge of one skate, usually the left, and launched by the right toe pick. Identifying a flip is made easier as the skater most often has their right leg elevated while gliding forward, before turning backward to begin the jump. A lutz is similar to a flip, but uses the outside back edge of the left skate, rather than the inside, making the jump much more difficult. Both of these ice skating jumps are almost always performed as triple-rotations, and like the toe loop are frequently used as combination components.
The most basic of the edge-based ice skating jumps is the salchow, named after an early 20th century skater, Ulrich Salchow. Generally, a salchow is performed by turning counterclockwise so the weight of the skater is on the back inner edge of the left skate, then jumping by swinging the right leg up and over the left. The fast launch of the right leg is essential, as it provides the momentum for the rotations.
The loop jump, which is different than the toe loop, is considered a highly difficult edge jump. The skater glides backward with the left foot crossed in front of the right. To launch, the skater uses the back inside edge of the right skate, while keeping the feet crossed. This jump is particularly difficult as it is entered blind, with the skater being unable to spot their landing location until they have already jumped.
The axel is sometimes considered the easiest jump for viewers to identify, as it is the only one of the ice skating jumps that has a forward-facing take-off. Because the skater starts facing forward and ends facing backward, a triple rotation actually is three and a half rotations in the air. While elite male skaters often have a triple axel as a compulsory element in competition, female skaters often perform double axels instead.
In competition, skaters are marked down in ice skating jumps for landing on two feet, under rotating in the jumps or tripping and falling on the landing. However, certain moves can gain bonus points. In the Tano, named for famous skater Brian Boitano, the skater holds one arm over their head as they jump. Under the new international skating rules introduced in 2006, adding movements such as the Tano can add to the difficulty of the jump and result in a higher score. This has led to an increase in tricky additions to ice skating jumps, which can only mean even more excitement for fans.