Ice skating is a popular winter sport, as well as a mode of transportation, in a variety of northern countries. Seasonal rinks are often built in warmer climates as well, especially for the traditional winter holidays, such as Christmas. Several Olympic sports are carried out on ice skates, including figure skating, speed skating, and hockey. Nations from all over the world field skating teams, thanks to indoor rinks that make it possible year round.
Specialized skating shoes, usually with a single blade, are required for ice skating, and people who practice this sport skate around on an icy area, such as an ice rink or frozen body of water. Skate blades are also sold separately for attachment to conventional shoes, although skaters should be careful to make sure that they have enough ankle support. Skilled ice skaters can execute complex jumps and other movements, while beginners often find themselves flat on the ice more frequently than they would like.
Crude ice skates have been found dating back to 3,000 BCE, suggesting that humans have been using blades to get around on ice for thousands of years. These early skates were made of bone, and they were designed to be tied to existing footwear with leather straps. Other early skates were made from wood and stone that were tooled in a variety of ways for the best skating experience. In the 1600s, skates made from metal began to appear, with the idea of a skating shoe emerging in the 1800s.
As many prints commemorating the holiday season suggest, ice skating has been a popular form of entertainment for all economic classes for centuries, with some northern cities holding large fairs on the winter ice. In some northern cities, it was also more efficient to travel on ice skates than via conventional roads. Skating competitions emerged in Scandinavia, where almost all citizens knew how to skate and spent much time in the winter racing on frozen bodies of water, and later dancing to music as well.
Until the late 1870s, ice skating was only possible in northern winters, when lakes, ponds, and rivers would freeze over enough to bear weight. In 1876, John Gamgee built an indoor refrigerated rink in London, which became an overnight success. With the introduction of the Zamboni® resurfacing machine, a specialized machine used for rink maintenance, ice skaters are able to enjoy smooth surfaces to skate on at all times of the year, all over the globe.