HARWICH – Caitlin Ross first started ice skating when she was 6 years old, taking to the sport immediately. At the end of April, after more than two decades of hard work, Ross will be traveling with her Theatre on Ice Boston team to the Nations' Cup Competition in Epinal, France.
Ross's skating journey began in her childhood through a learn to skate program held at the Charles Moore Arena in Orleans. Upon seeing her knack for the sport, a coach suggested to Ross's mother, Stephanie, that she consider enrolling her in private lessons, which began when Ross was 7.
Since then, Ross has honed her skills with the Lower Cape Figure Skating Club before joining the Skating Club of Boston, through private coaching with Morgan Rowe and becoming part of the Act 1 Theatre on Ice Boston team. Her first major competition took place in 2014 when she took part in the New England Regionals at the age of 15.
For Ross, skating is as integral to her life as drawing breath, and these days she devotes herself as fully as possible to her passion, scheduling college classes and work at a local coffee shop around practice time, which often takes her to Boxborough. Ross's mother said the support she and her daughter receive from their respective employers – Caitlin works at the Snowy Owl in Brewster and Stephanie works for Cranberry Laundry in Harwich Port – is a key component of Caitlin's success.
“Sometimes the practices in Boston don't get done until 10:20 at night,” Stephanie said. “We surround ourselves with understanding people.”
But while the long hours of practice might seem grueling, for Ross it's all about the promise of performing.
“My favorite thing about it is just going out there, entertaining everyone,” she said. “Spinning around so many times on the ice, doing these huge jumps, fascinating people with what I can do, even the little things.”
For those unfamiliar, Theatre on Ice is a type of competitive figure skating that involves a combination of dance and theater. Competitive teams often perform versions of familiar Broadway shows or shows written and choreographed by theater on ice professionals, the latter of which is true for Ross's Act 1 team this season.
“Last season we did 'Hamilton' for our long program,” Ross said. “This year our Theatre on Ice choreographer came up with his own story. We're all magicians playing with blood magic that goes too far. This year I feel like we're in a really good spot. We've got both programs down.”
Along with the challenges of practice time and travel, Ross said there can be difficulties among skaters, but that her team has a solid bond.
“The teams are more of a family. We work together, we skate together,” said Ross. “This team is like ride or die. We're all in it together and all want the same thing, and we all want the team itself to be strong and go far. We all work together to make it happen.”
A part of making it all happen is raising the funds to travel to competition venues. Two years ago the biennial Nations' Cup was held in Michigan, making travel costs a bit more manageable. With the 2019 competition happening in France, however, the need to raise funds is greater. Stephanie said the team must raise $50,000 to cover the costs of travel for the coaches, the team doctor, and the 19 individual team members, among others. While it's a costly endeavor, neither Ross nor her mother would choose a life without skating.
“It's sometimes really stressful, and other times I just think, 'Wow, I'm skating with these girls who are going to Nationals and some competing internationally,'” Ross said. “It's crazy that I was able to compete with them. I just have the time of my life when I'm doing shows.”
To make a donation towards Ross's trip to France, send checks to the Skating Club of Boston, 1240 Soldiers Field Road, Boston, MA, 02135, with Caitlin Ross TOI Act 1” in the memo line.