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‘WHEN IT HAPPENS, IT’S MAGIC’


SKATER LEAVES HER MARK HIGH IN THE MOUNTAINS


BY KAMA STIGALL


Trough physical strength and intense concentration, Laura Kottlowski uses her feet to produce the most intricate of artworks. In the past few years, she has carved out a name for herself in the skating world — creating special figures in unique environments, including high elevations and spectacular outdoor spaces. Kottlowski, who works as a freelance cre-


ative director and graphic designer, also teaches at the Apex Ice Arena in Arvada, Colorado. She grew up in Pennsylvania. When she began skat- ing at age 6, she gravitated toward jumping, not school figures. “I remember attending patch class at a


super young age, but I remember not liking it,” Kottlowski said with a laugh. “Shortly there- after, moves in the field were introduced and figures were no longer required, so I made the switch.” She wrapped up her amateur career after competing in college for Penn State University. Kottlowski temporarily moved to Colorado in the summer of 2006 for an internship, eventu- ally relocating there in 2007 when she “imme- diately fell in love with hiking in the high alpine of the Rockies,” she said.


A moment during a winter hiking trip


sparked an interest in outdoor skating. “When winter rolled around, I would go


snowshoeing with friends in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park,” Kottlowski said. “One of those trips in 2009 we hiked up to a lake with pristine ice and I couldn’t believe I didn’t have my skates with me. I was upset I didn’t have them. Growing up, there were a few times I remember skating outside, although none of that ice was a smooth as this ice was.”


Tough it sounds dreamy, this type of skating is not for the faint of heart. “High alpine ice is so challenging because


it’s essentially marrying mountaineering with figure skating,” Kottlowski said. “It’s incredibly dangerous all around if you don’t know what you are doing, both with mountaineering and if you are not a high-level skater. A lot of the ice is uneven, so the ability to catch yourself if your blade hits a crack or bump or snow is key. Te addition of extreme cold and less oxygen are added challenges. Sometimes temps are in the negatives (Fahrenheit). And once you are up there with skates on, if your toes don’t freeze in the transition from mountaineering boots to skates, all it will take is a few strokes and you


Kottlowski uses her precise skating skills to etch a figure on a pristine sheet of mountain ice.


get winded, especially when you are skating against the wind.” Marisa Jarae, a close friend of Kottlowski, has been able to capture these moments. Jarae is a photographer, and often hikes with her on high alpine ice adventures. One of their recent challenges was to hike to and skate on the high- est lake in the U.S. — Pacific Tarn in the Colo- rado Rockies at 13,420 feet. It took the pair five tries to accomplish their goal this past winter. “Reaching the tarn, and documenting the first person to figure skate on this tarn was amazing, made even more awesome by the nu- merous failed attempts that had come before it,” Jarae said.


While her high alpine adventures have


helped Kottlowski to build upon her fundamen- tal skating skills set, the practice of her figures has enabled her to add another set of capabili- ties to her repertoire. “Te past two years I’ve been making them


more a part of my life; I have felt an increase in body awareness as it relates to efficiency and a greater connection between my feet and the ice,” she said. “Te quality and capability of my edges have improved greatly. It’s not about how


much power or speed you can generate with a push — it’s more about efficiency and impecca- ble control. It’s meditative and calming because you have to be so focused. Additionally, it’s also a part of the sport that people can practice and continue to set goals with late in life.” Kottlowski has also connected with others


who share her love for figures. Nancy Blackwell- Grieder, who won the ladies division at the 2017 World Figure Championships, works with Kottlowski to improve her figures. “Her skating and her career both reflect her determination and perseverance in her life,” Blackwell-Grieder said. Kottlowski ended up competing alongside


Blackwell Grieder at the 2017 World Figure Championships, where she debuted a special figure that was inspired by a design Nikolai Panin skated in 1897. As Kottlowski continues to refine and


innovate her art form, others are excited to see what’s next, including Jarae. “We each have our own art, and these


moments are the result of a perfect alignment of an infinite amount of variables and unknowns,” Jarae said. “When it happens, it’s magic.”


SKATING 107


PHOTO BY DAVE KOZLOWSKI


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