Skate director continues family tradition

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Sean Wirtz is the new skating director for Glacier Skate Academy. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

When Sean Wirtz is out on the ice rink working with young ice skaters, he seems to be just following his family tradition.

Wirtz grew up in the small town of Marathon, Ontario, Canada, where he learned to ice skate at an early age. His grandparents were skaters. His parents were skaters. His uncle Paul Wirtz was a Canadian figure skating coach, and his uncle Olympian Kris Wirtz is a former pair skater.

“I was just following in the family footsteps,” he says. “I love to give back and coach and teach.”

Wirtz recently took over as the new skating director for Glacier Skate Academy.

Wirtz is a Canadian national champion and international competitor in both pairs and singles skating and represented Team Canada for 10 years. He won the bronze medal in 2006 at Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, an annual figure skating competition.

Wirtz retired from competitive figure skating in 2007 and since then has traveled the world skating professionally.

Wirtz and his fiancée Kristin Cowan have performed all around the world with Holiday on Ice, and as Prince Eric and Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” in Disney’s “Rockin’ Ever After.”

Cowan, who is serving as a part-time coach for the academy, has been skating since she was young in her hometown of Spokane.

Wirtz said being closer to family was one of the draws for moving to Whitefish, and he says he felt it was time to spend more time coaching while fulfilling a goal of following his family path of teaching young skaters.

“As you get older skating gets a little harder,” he says with a laugh.

“I really wanted to work with a smaller program and help it to grow,” he said. “I want to help skaters reach their goals and help them be on the right path, whether it’s learning to skate, traveling the world skating or skating professionally.”

He says skating offers many different avenues from recreational skating all the way to those who want to compete nationally or internationally and the goal is to assist those skaters.

Wirtz has plans to expand Glacier Skate’s Learn to Skate program for youth wanting to learn to skate, and add adult skating lessons, and work with hockey skaters also. He says he’s also offering a free lesson to anyone who wants to try skating before signing up for a full session.

He says he likes to see the joy on children’s faces when they learn to skate.

“They learn so many new skills in just 30 minutes,” he said. “They’re just little sponges and they’re so happy.”

For more information on Glacier Skating Academy, call (509)795-9830 or visit glacierskateacademy.org.

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