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Figure Skating Spins

While ice skating spins do not get as many points as the jumps.  The spins are just as important for technical merit as well as for artistic merit.  A skater spins on the ball of the foot just behind the toe pick.  The goal is to spin in one spot while holding a specific body position. A perfect spin would show up on the ice as a circle traced over and over again by the skate.  When a skater fails to spin in one spot, the term is called traveling. Traveling shows up on the ice as a series of loops.

A skater can spin on either foot in a counterclockwise or clockwise position.  As with jumps, the dominant direction of the spin is indicated by the skaters rotational preference. Spins are identified by the foot on which the skater spins and the position of the arms and legs during the spin. There are Upright Spins, Sit Spins and Camel Spins. Combination spins are a series of spins where the skater changes position, changes feet, and/or edges without checking out of the spin.

Upright Spins

An upright spin where the skater spins in an upright position. 

There are many variations to the upright spin as listed below:

Two-Foot Spin - A spin in which the skater rotates with both feet on the ice. The first spin a beginner skater will learn.

Basic One-Foot Spin - A spin in which the skater rotates with one foot on the ice. Spins can be skated on either of the feet.

Scratch Spin -  An upright spin with the free leg crossed in front of the skating leg. The arms & free leg begin in an open position, extended straight out and high. Gradually they are pulled in to accelerate the spin, and the free leg is pushed down so that the feet are crossed at the ankles. This spin is performed on a very tight backward inside edge.

Back Scratch - Similar to the forward scratch spin, only performed on the opposite foot and on a tight backward outside edge. This is usually learned soon after the scratch spin is mastered, and is the basic air position for jumping.

Crossfoot Spin -A back upright spin in which the free leg is crossed behind the skating foot.

Layback Spin  - Usually performed by women this spin has the back arched and head dropped back, the free leg in an attitude position, and the arms often stretched to the ceiling like a ballerina.  Variations of this spin are the Catch Foot Layback or Haircutter, in which the skater grabs the free blade and pulls it toward their head while in the layback position.

Attitude Spin -  looks like a very shallow Layback, the skater turns the head to the side instead of arching and looking up, while the free leg is held in attitude position as for a layback spin. The leg position is the feature of this variation. It is often taught as an introductory position while learning a layback.

Biellmann Spin - Named after Denise Biellmann 1981 World Champion, this spin is a variation of the layback spin and performed by pulling the free leg from behind up and over the head. The blade of the skate may be held with either one or both hands. This requires extreme flexibility in the shoulders, back, hips, and legs.

"I" Spins - A collection of spins when the skater pulls the free leg up in front of his or her face in a near-vertical angle like a standing split. Think of Sasha Cohen.

Shotgun Spin - A front-grab spins in which the free leg is held in a horizontal position.

"Y" Spins - Spin in which the free leg is held with the hand and extended to the side in a near-split position. Michelle Kwan is known for doing this variation consecutively on both feet. The support can be from either or both arms, and the hold can either be on the skate or the ankle.

Sit Spins
A sit spin is defined as the bottom being no higher than the level of the skating knee.

As with the upright spins, there are many variations to the sit spin.

Basic Sit Spin - The skater is in a shoot the duck position with the skating leg bent and the free leg extended forwards.

Broken Leg Sit Spin - The skaters free leg is turned inwards at the hip.

Corkscrew Sit Spin - A back sit spin in which the skater crosses the free leg behind the skating foot, rather than extending it to the front.

Flying Sit Spin - A sit spin entered from a jump; the skater attains the sit spin position in the air.  Difficult to master, but it gives great drama to any routine.

Pancake Spin - A difficulty variation in which the free leg is crossed and propped over the skate leg horizontal to the ice and the upper body is bent over it, forming the illusion of the skater's body as a pancake.

Cannonball Spin - A difficulty variation similar to the pancake but the arms are held down touching the skating leg, giving the illusion of a cannonball.

Death Drop - A flying spin performed by jumping up with a forward Axel jump takeoff, kicking the same takeoff leg backwards, and landing in a back sit position. The difference between a death drop and a regular flying sit spin is the position the skater attains in the air, which is almost horizontal to the ice in the death drop. Brian Boitano has a fabulous death drop.

Camel Spin
A camel spin is a spin in which the free leg is extended backwards parallel to the ice with the knee higher

than the hip level.

Basic Camel Spin - is performed by assuming an arabesque position (or spiral position) with the free leg extended behind at hip level, parallel to the ice surface.

Flying Camel Spin - A back camel spin from a jump entry.

Illusion Spin - A spin with a basic position similar to the camel. However, instead of remaining in a fixed position throughout the spin,  the skater's body shifts up and down while the skater is spinning coinciding with the rotational speed so that the "low point" is always at the same point on the circle.  This creates and image of "cart-wheeling" during a spin.

Doughnut Spin - A camel spin with the skater pulling the free leg backward with one or both arms towards the head while arching the back to create a horizontal circular shape like a doughnut with the body.
Butterfly Spin - A flying spin similar to the death drop but with a two-foot, twisting takeoff rather than an Axel-like takeoff.


The Axel is the most difficult edge jump.  It was invented in 1882 by Norway's Axel Paulsen. The axel takes off from a forward position on the left outside edge.  The skater must then rotate 1 1/2, 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 times before landing on the right back outside edge.  The triple axel is the biggest challenge for women.  Midori Ito was the first female to land the Triple Axel in competition in 1988.

Lutz Jump

The Lutz is a toe jump invented by Austrian athlete Alois Lutz in the 1930's.  It is a difficult jump for most skaters because of the counter-rotational entry. In other words, you enter into the jump a different direction than you rotate in the air. While skating backwards on the left foot, back outside edge, the skater uses the toe pick to vault into the air. After making 1,2 or 3 rotations the skater would then land on his right foot, outside edge.

Flip Jump

The Flip Jump was created by American skater Bruce Mapes in 1913, also the inventor of the Toe Loop.  This is a toe jump that seems similar to the Salchow because of the initial 3-turn take off.  The skater moves forward on the left leg and makes a 3-turn to get into the backward position.  Skating backward on the left foot, back inside edge, the skater would then use the toe pick of her right leg to vault her into the air. After making 1,2 or 3 revolutions the skater would then land backwards on the right foot, outside edge.


The Salchow is an edge jump created by Sweden's Ulrich Salchow (gold medalist, 1908).  Skating forward on the left foot the skater would make a 3-turn to get into a backward position.  Continuing backward on the left foot the skater would ten take off on the left back inside edge by swinging the right leg forward and around in a wide scooping motion to make 1, 2 or 3 revolutions.  She would then land backwards on the right foot, outside edge.

Toe Loop

Loop Jump

The Loop Jump is an edge jump invented by German skater Werner Rittberger in 1910.  The skater starts by skating backwards stepping onto her right foot, back outside edge, then swivels her arms to the right and moves her left leg forward.  As she leaps, twisting left and crossing left leg over right, she would make 1, 2, or 3 rotations. She would then land on her right foot, outside edge, and follow through by swinging her left leg behind.

The Toe Loop was invented by American skater Bruce Mapes in 1920. This jump takes off going backwards on the right outside edge.  As the skater leaps into the air he would twist left, crossing his left leg over the right, make 1,2 or 3 revolutions and land on the right outside edge.  Then swing his left leg behind to follow through.

Figure Skating Jumps & Spins

New to figure skating and not sure what the difference is between a Lutz and a Salchow? Kinzie's Closet has put together a glossary of terms for figure skating jumps and spins to help you figure it out.

Scroll down to see the different Spins.

Figure Skating Jumps
Ice skating jumps are an important part of competitive figure skating.  There are singles, doubles, triples and quads.  There are Toe Loops, Loops, Flips, Salchows, Axels,  Lutzs and Sequence Jumps. All those different jumps are identified by their take-off edges and the number of revolutions completed.  A revolution is how many times the skater turns in the air.  A double is two revolutions, a triple is three revolutions and a quad is four revolutions.

A figure skate has two edges. If you were to turn a figure skate upside down and look down the middle of the blade, you would notice a hollow groove in the shape of a U.  This is what creates the inside and outside edges of the blade. The inside edge would be on the inside of your foot and the outside edge would be on the outside of your foot.

Jumps can be performed in a clockwise or counterclockwise rotation and this is usually determined by whether you are right handed or left handed.  All jumps are landed on a back outside edge (with the exception of a few jump variations) and all jumps are classified as "edge jumps" or "toe jumps".  Edge jumps take off on an inside or outside edge without the assistance of a toe pick.  Toe jumps take off with assistance from the toe pick which vaults the skater in the air.

Combination jumps are two or more jumps in succession that have the same take-off edge as the landing edge from the first jump.  For instance, an axel jump followed by a triple toe loop then a double toe loop.

The six most common jumps recognizes by the ISU (International Skating Union) in order from the least difficult (top) to the most difficult (bottom)

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