Early History of the Ice Skating Institute

History of the ISIA Ice Skating Institute of America

Recreatonal Ice Skating
Recreational Ice Skating. Credit: PeopleImages.com / DigitalVision Collection / Getty Images

About the Ice Skating Institute:

The Ice Skating Institute has introduced more than five million people to ice skating. The organization does not just serve figure skaters, but also provides resources for ice rink managers and owners, ice hockey players, and beginning ice skaters.

ISI's Beginnings: 1959-60:

Before the 1960s, there were only about one-hundred refrigerated indoor ice skating rinks in the United States, but that changed because ice skating, figure skating, and ice hockey became very popular after the 1960 Olympic Winter Games took place in Squaw Valley, California, USA.

That Winter Olympics was the first time the Winter Olympics was televised, and more and more people wanted to skate.

To address ice skating's new popularity, a group of skating rink operators, managers, and owners came together. The new interest in skating in America made it clear that there was a need for people in the ice skating industry to connect. The "conceptional birth" of the Ice Skating Institute of America, ISIA, (now called Ice Skating Institute or ISI) was founded because of that new interest in ice skating.

Charter Members:

The first group of people who were charter members of the Ice Skating Institute were people who were considered "Who's Who in Ice Skating" at the time. Some of those charter members were:

  • Peter Dunfield
  • Fritz Dietl
  • Michael Kirby
  • R. Louise Hoggan
  • Larz Anderson
  • Lewis Elkin
  • Harris Legg
  • Willy Kirk
  • Bob Scrak
  • Paul F. Riedell
  • Roy Oberhamer

First Conference, Newsletter and Trade Show:

In 1960, ISI held its first annual conference.

It was held at the Comrade Hilton Hotel in Chicago. At that conference, the organization's bylaws were adopted.

The first ISIA Newsletter came out in 1961 and the first ISIA Trade Show took place in 1963. At least twenty exhibits were included in the trade show. Some of the vendors were Riedell skates, Oberhamer skates, and Zamboni.

First Achievement Test and Badges:

In 1963, the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma tests and badges were launched, but the Delta test and badge came later. It was decided at the 1963 ISIA Conference that some sort of program was needed to teach basic skating skills so that skaters would keep coming back. Michael Kirby and Ron Priestly initiated the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma tests and the original ISIA learn to skate program (now called weSkate).

First Competitions:

In 1969, the ISIA addressed an important issue. In the 1960s, in order to compete, there was only USFSA, United States Figure Skating Association, competitions that began at the Preliminary level. The ISIA wanted to make it possible for new ice skaters to compete without spending a great deal of money, so the organization came up with the idea of recreational figure skating competitions. Their recreational events were meant to help skaters transition from learn to skate programs into competitive skating. The ISIA organization wanted to create a bridge that could help link beginning skating to competitive figure skating.

ISI Presidents:

Michael Kirby was Ice Skating Institute's first president. His "Michael Kirby Skating Schools" made it possible for little children and beginners to learn to skate.

He wanted to make ice skating available to everyone.

The organization's next president was Frank Zamboni, the inventor of the Zamboni resurfacing machine. Some other ISI presidents were Ron Priestly, Michael Booker, and Murray Sandler who are all considered pioneers in the ice skating industry.

Famous Skaters Began in Ice Skating Institute's Programs:

Many famous figure skaters, including Olympic figure skating champions, began skating in ISI programs. Some skaters that had ISI beginnings include U.S. figure skating legend Michelle Kwan, Olympic figure skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi, and U.S. Men's Figure Skating Champion, Ryan Bradley.


In 1995, the organization's name was changed from Ice Skating Institute of America, ISIA, to Ice Skating Institute, ISI. The organization continues to be a leader in the skating industry.

Ice arena managers, skating directors, and skating coaches take advantage of the seminars, workshops, and educational opportunities that ISI offers. Skaters of all ages and abilities from all over the world take part in ISI programs.

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Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. "Early History of the Ice Skating Institute." ThoughtCo, Dec. 13, 2015, thoughtco.com/early-history-of-the-ice-skating-institute-1282617. Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. (2015, December 13). Early History of the Ice Skating Institute. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/early-history-of-the-ice-skating-institute-1282617 Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. "Early History of the Ice Skating Institute." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/early-history-of-the-ice-skating-institute-1282617 (accessed November 25, 2017).