Or rather, should I say I love my new blades. The boots are still a work in progress.

So in addition to working on my first program, the other big development in my skating is that I got new skates. Yay! Although the old ones are only 9 months old at this point, I’ve been thinking I’d need new ones soon, especially after reading Janie talk about her upgrade. They aren’t really broken down yet, but they have been feeling more and more wobbly on landings. Plus, the Jackson Artistes were never as stiff as they probably ought to have been once I started jumping. I noticed the beginnings of creases in the flex notch area, and my right heel started slipping a bit. So in addition to being unsupportive, they were getting roomy, and altogether I wasn’t feeling very secure.

Furthermore, I had the inkling that perhaps the stock Mark IV blades were starting to hold me back from improving. It’s not a bad blade and they have a lot more life left to them, but I was getting a bit frustrated. I didn’t want to blame blades if it was really just my lack of skill, but all in all I think it was a good time to move on up.

So, what did I decide? First, I headed to a different fitter, an experienced pro who came recommended by my coach. She suggested the Jackson Freestyle, which was about what I was thinking, so that was easy. I was measured for the same size as the Artistes, and she suggested I stick with the Mirage blades that come with the boot. Since I was hoping I’d be ready for a more advanced blade I was a little disappointed, but she cautioned that the Coronation Ace might trip me up at my level. She did encourage to get coach’s opinion, which was good because Coach A said I was totally fine with the Coronation Aces. I’m thinking the skate tech was taking a conservative estimate of my skill level since I told her I started skating this year.

I skated on the new pair this week, and there are still a few spots that need punching out before the boots are comfortable. They were heat molded, but what felt fine in the shop turned into pressure, and then pain, while skating. I didn’t want to skate too long in pain, but I did get in enough practice to fall completely in love with Coronation Aces. Oh man, are these blades awesome.

I am not a great spinner, and have always found spinning trickier than jumping. Less painful, but more difficult to get the knack of. The hook entry, hitting the sweet spot, staying centered — all of it was rough, and done with lots of toepick scraping. On the CoroAces, my first spin was magically centered and fast and easy. The hook feels more secure now, and I am so much less afraid about falling over on the camel entry. Jumps are good too, although I didn’t do many of them (due to the whole pain factor). The first time I tried a waltz jump I just about fell straight down on my butt because I didn’t step up far enough on the rocker, due to the fact that the Mark IV has such a flat one. When I managed to take off properly off the pick, I was amazed at how much higher it was — I didn’t jump any harder, but the pick and rocker angle were enough to propel me higher.

The difference between the Mark IV and the CoroAce is like night and day, like coach and first class, like driving an old beater with no power steering and a luxury SUV with tons of power. The new blades don’t conjure up new skills magically out of thin air, but they do drastically enhance my ability to perform the ones I’ve already learned. Did I mention I’m in love? I am in love.

Now to get the boots as comfortable and skate-ready.