From Axels to Salchows there's a lot of terminology in figure skating that doesn't get used anywhere else. That can make it tough to follow along or know what to watch for. But we've got your back with an all-new Fan Guide straight from the experts at U.S. Figure Skating. Study up before the U.S. Championships come to Columbus in January 2024 and you'll see the sport like never before. Plus, you'll impress your friends by spotting different types of jumps and spins with ease.


Judging and Scoring

A maximum of nine judges make up the judging panel. Judges determine a technical score and program component score. Each element a skater performs is assigned a base value, giving the skater credit for every element they perform.

Judges grade the quality of each element within a range of -5 to +5. Base values are established on each element’s level of difficulty. Judges will award points on a scale from 0.25 to 10 for five program components. Each portion of the competition gets these two sets of scores. For example, single skaters will get a technical and program component score for their short program first, which is their segment score. Once they receive their segment score for their free skate, the two segment scores are added together to determine the competition score. The highest competition score is the winner!



There are three disciplines in figure skating:

  • Singles is divided into men and women, and competition consists of two segments: the short program and free skate.

  • Pairs is two people skating together, competition consists of a short program and free skate. 

  • Ice Dance is also two people skating together, but competition consists of two segments: rhythm dance and free dance.

Here's how to tell Pairs and Ice Dance apart. If two skaters perform jumps and throws in unison, that's pairs. if you see two skaters performance dance patterns to a specific rhythm of music, that's ice dance.


There are two different types of jumps in skating: toe jumps and edge jumps. All jumps should end with the skater on one foot. Did you know? Jumps like the Axel, Lutz and Salchow are named after the skaters that first perfected or popularized them?

In toe jumps, the skater will use their toe pick to help launch them into the air.

  • Types of toe jumps: toe loop, flip, Lutz

In edge jumps, the skater will use their own strength, just bending their knees and jumping.

  • Types of edge jumps: Salchow, loop, Axel


Skating has three types of spins: 

  • Upright Spin: The skater is upright while they rotate
  • Sit Spin: The skater is low and close to the ice with one knee bent and the other extended
  • Camel Spin: The skater’s free leg is held backwards with the knee above hip level

Download this guide and you'll be watching figure skating like a judge in no time.