This is Part 2 in a multi-part series covering the sport of Figure Skating. For this week, we take a look at the different kinds of edge jumps (axel, salchow, loop) and how to identify them.

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In Case You Missed It - The Basics Part 1: Components, Skating Moves, and Terminology

It’s great to have you back again for Part 2: Edge Jumps. Building upon these posts, I will continue to add more entries to this series with the goal of building an active and informed fan base here on Scorum for the sport of figure skating, as well as broaden the scope of the site’s coverage.

For today's class, we launch ourselves into the air and begin by looking at each aspect of the sport in greater detail. Lace up your skates and let’s hit the ice because our routine is getting ready to start.

Jump Elements

As we discussed in Part 1, jumps, either edge or pick, are only a single part of a skater’s routine. These parts, called elements, make up the individual tricks and moves the skater will perform to earn points during a routine. Each jump or move is given a base point value, figured by the level of difficultly, and then a Grade of Execution (GoE) value is awarded on top of the base point value to give the skater his/her final score for a particular element. One such element is called an edge jump.

With the exception of Ice Dance, which does not allow any jumps or throws, all other figure skating disciplines involve jumps. In case you forgot, a quick review:

Elements and moves: are the components of figure skating that are judged and awarded points. They include: jumps, spins, lifts, steps and turns.

Jumps: are when the skater launches (jumps) his/herself off the ice. Primarily there are two types of jumps: edge jumps and pick jumps. Edge jumps are when the skater jumps off one foot using only the edge of the blade to lift off the ice. Pick jumps, also called toe jumps, are when the skater uses the toe pick of his/her free leg to launch off the ice.

Types of Edge Jumps

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As mentioned above, an edge jump differs from a pick jump by the skater only using the edge of his/her blade to launch the skater into the air to perform the trick. A pick jump differs by allowing the skater to use his/her ice pick to jab into the ice and launch in the air.

There are three types of edge jumps: Axel, Salchow & Loop. New fans of the sport might find it impossible to identify jumps and moves as they are happening live, but with a little practice, you too can be calling out moves as they happen in real time. The main strategy of identifying jumps is not to wait until the skater is in the air to decide, but rather, being able to identify the jump before the skater even leaves the ice. But how?

Each jump involves a slightly different build up or takeoff before the move is attempted. Thus allowing spectators to get a sense of what move the skater will attempt before he/she tries it. Below we will take a look at all three different edge jumps and how to identify them in the takeoff. Do note: you cannot use the skater’s landing to help identify moves because all jump landings are the exact same: backward outside edge. In the below descriptions what follows the move is the skater’s positioning during the takeoff.

Axel – Forward Outside Edge

Most jump names, including this one, were named after a famous skater. This one is named after the Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen. The axel is one of the easiest jumps to identify as it is the only jump which involves the skater taking off heading forward. If you see a skater facing forward in the takeoff, you know it will be an axel. The skater will use his/her free leg to swing it upwards, giving them the needed upwards momentum to launch into the air. The one footed take off is what makes this move so difficult. Forward facing build up, a one-footed launch, and a kicking free leg are all the three signs in the takeoff that an axel will be attempted.

Salchow – Backwards Inside Edge

We have Swedish skater Ulrich Salchow to thank for this funky sounding jump. This jump is well known for creating a rut in the ice when attempted. This is due to the skater using the inside edge of the skate, while heading backwards, to create this jump. To identify the jump, watch as the skater heads into the jump backwards with his/her free leg extending outwards towards the direction he/she is skating. The skater will then take his/her free leg and swing it towards the front of his/her body, while tucking in the arms, to create the momentum needed to jump into the air. Watching for a backwards entry into the jump with the free leg extending outward tells you the jump will be a Salchow.

Loop – Backwards Outside Edge

The loop is where most skaters begin their training. It is the most basic and fundamental jump and is the only edge jump that starts and ends in the exact same spot on the skate: the backwards outside edge. To identify this jump pay attention to a backwards entry into the takeoff. This edge jump is iconic in the way the skater will bend his/her knees and take a brief sitting position before jumping into the air. This jump can sometimes be seen as if the skater is using both feet to launch into the air. You’ll know it is a loop when the skater lands in the exact same position he/she started the takeoff in.


Okay class, we will end it right here for today. Your homework is to watch: the Japanese phenomenon Yuzuru Hanyu win Gold Medal in front of a packed stadium in Pyeongchang. He does all his jumps very precisely and deliberately, so he is one of the best to watch. Start by trying to identify when the skater is beginning the takeoff and what position he lands in. This will help train you eye to get use to focusing on the right element at the right time. Don’t worry about trying to identify each jump just yet, but instead, work on spotting the takeoff and landing positions as best you can, training your eye to see these is the first step in identifying jumps.