Among the skills learned by today’s figure skaters are pivots, two-foot moves where the skater sticks the toe (or occasionally heel) of one blade into the ice while the other foot circles around it. Skaters generally learn four pivots in this order:

  1. Forward inside (at :20)
  2. Backward inside (at 0:34)
  3. Backward outside (at 0:19)
  4. Forward outside

The pivots are named after the edge the circling foot is on. The links are to the ISI test requirements. The forward outside pivot is considered an uncaptured move by the ISI and is rarely seen, but it is done in the same position as the backward outside pivot.

Back in the day, there were more pivots. The Skater’s Text Book (p. 59–60) lists six pivots! The two extra ones are:

  1. The outside edge toe-step forward, foot in front.—Start the same as in the last movement [forward outside pivot], but instead of crossing the foot over behind, cross it in front.
  2. The outside edge toe-step backward, foot in front.—Start on the outside edge backward, and cross the pivot-foot over in front, placing the pivot-toe on the ice, as far over as possible, and circle around it on the outside edge.

What happened to these extra pivots? Figure skaters don’t do them any more, perhaps because they are much harder than the pivots that do survive (even forward outside seems to be dying out) and aren’t as flashy as fancy jumps and spins. But they do survive in freestyle slalom skating. Here’s a video with the full set of freestyle slalom pivots.

The full set of pivots, on inline skates.

The video includes heel pivots, which are rarely done (but known) in figure skating today. The correspondences are:

  1. Forward inside pivot = forward uncrossed toe pivot
  2. Backward inside pivot = backward uncrossed toe pivot
  3. Backward outside pivot = backward crossed-behind toe pivot
  4. Forward outside pivot = forward crossed-behind toe pivot
  5. Extra forward outside pivot = forward crossed-in-front toe pivot
  6. Extra backward outside pivot = backward crossed-in-front toe pivot

These pivots aren’t just curiosities in freestyle slalom skating. They actually get used in programs, like this one:

Sofia Bogdanova does a backward crossed-in-front pivot at 1:41.

It’s fascinating to see how these moves have survived!


Frank Swift and Marvin R. Clark. 1868. The Skater’s Text Book. New York: John A. Gray & Green.