Laurie Balstad, 18, a member of the Juneau Skating Club, stops to pose for a picture during practice at Treadwell Arena on Friday, March 3, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Laurie Balstad, 18, a member of the Juneau Skating Club, stops to pose for a picture during practice at Treadwell Arena on Friday, March 3, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Meet the Queen of Treadwell Ice Arena

A purple dress and the nursery rhyme, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Those two details stick out the most when Juneau-Douglas High School senior Laurie Balstad harks back on her first program she skated as an 8-year-old.

Ten years, two coaches, six U.S. Figure Skating regional competitions and countless hours at Treadwell Arena later, and Balstad has become the face of Juneau’s youth figure skating scene. As the most accomplished figure skater to come out of Juneau — a berth to the USFS Pacific Coast Sectionals last November cemented that designation — she is also a prized instructor and show choreographer with the JSC. Balstad also co-captains, “Team Forget-Me-Not,” a synchronized skating team that has competed at the state and national level.

An ending and a beginning

Saturday’s Juneau Skate Club Spring Show, “Nursery Rhymes to Fairy Tales,” at Treadwell Arena will be both an ending and beginning for Balstad. As one of the show’s directors and featured performers, it will be her last skating event in Juneau for the foreseeable future. It will also be the beginning of her legacy as a role model and example of what’s possible for an expanding body of Juneau club skaters with a lot of hard work and tenacity.

There are now approximately 30 figure skaters and over 50 youth and adults in the “learn to skate” programs.

“You have to be self-motivated,” Balstad said of developing into an elite figure skater in a town that only has a rink eight months out of the year. “But then you also take motivation from other kids excelling in their own way.”

For years, Balstad has been in a league of her own. Ever since she started out in the club’s basic skills courses, Balstad never settled in her training to become a better skater.

For the last five summers, Balstad has traveled out of state for one to two months at a time to continue her training. For four summers she stayed with an aunt in Minnesota while skating five days a week at the “a’Xel International Training Center” that counts among its staff a yoga coach for off-ice training.

During the school year, Balstad was known for getting up hours before class to cross train at the gym. After school, she’d spend a couple hours with a coach at the rink.

She has always liked a challenge, and figure skating, with all its spins, twists and jumps, allows Balstad to continually test her physical and mental stamina.

“Every time I came to the ice there was something new to do, and it was really exciting in that respect,” she said. “Where as I feel like in some other sports you get to the top and it’s a lot of repetition, a lot of repetition, a lot of repetition, a lot of repetition — with skating you come back and you always have something new.”

JSC founder Pam Leary has coached Balstad for the past five years. Leary says Balstad’s cerebral approach to skating is part of what has made her so successful.

“In all of her skating, she has, I think, had an idea from within about how things should be done and I think that’s really important in figure skating because it’s very individual and independent,” Leary said.

After years working with Balstad, Leary has learned what the skater’s mom has known all along.

“If you make her mad, she’ll suddenly be able to do something,” Laurie’s mom Liz Balstad said.

“Laurie doesn’t like being told she can’t do something, so very often if she’s having trouble doing something I play into that,” Leary adds. “Sometimes I say, ‘We’re not going to do that particular move,’ and that challenges her.”

Inspiring the next wave

Balstad’s can-do attitude rubs off on anybody who has ever shared the ice with her.

High school freshman figure skater Katie McKenna can attest to this.

“I’ve watched the other kids look up to her and decide that’s what they want to do,” McKenna said.

Coach Leary agrees with McKenna, and says Balstad’s given “rock star” treatment when she skates at shows like the one coming up Saturday. (See below for details)

“She is everything that each of those girls want to be — she is it,” Leary said. “And then she takes the time to give back and work with them on what makes skating great, which is line, and beauty, and just grace.”

Balstad says she wouldn’t be surprised if the next crop of Juneau’s youth figure skaters surpass her own achievements.

“It’s been really cool and really exciting to see this next wave of skaters. There’s seven or eight girls who are in 8th grade right now and they’re all going to be in high school next year, so it’s been fun to see them grow up through the years,” she said.

Balstad is interested in a career in the sciences and is still weighing her options about which college to attend. Whether she skates in the collegiate ranks or not, she knows skating will always be in her life.

“It’s such a part of my personality at this point,” she said.

To learn more about the Juneau Skating Club or sign up for a learn to skate class, go to



• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2772 or



Laurie Balstad, a member of the Juneau Skating Club, speaks with her coach, Pam Leary, during practice at Treadwell Arena on Friday, March 3, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Laurie Balstad, a member of the Juneau Skating Club, speaks with her coach, Pam Leary, during practice at Treadwell Arena on Friday, March 3, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in Sports

Senior assistant captain Anna Dale attempts to stuff the net during a home game between Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé Crimson Bears Varsity hockey team and the Kenai Central Kardinals at the Treadwell Arena Saturday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Crimson Bears topple Kardinals on home ice

The team won with a score of 4-2

This combination photo shows all five division-winning teams from the recent 3v3 Pre-Season Tournament at Thunder Mountain High School. (Upper left) Team 7, (upper right) Hoopsters, (lower left) 3 Amigos; (lower center) Lucky Ladies and (lower right) 3 of a Kind. (Courtesy Photos)
3v3 Tournament crowns division winners

Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball and Hooprats recently hosted the 13th… Continue reading

Matthew Wendel, Mike Kreis, Kasey Watts, Courtney Kreis, Tami Wahto and Todd Schur wore costumes during the 2021 Turkey Trot. Why’d they wear costumes? “Why not?” asked Schur. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strut your speed at upcoming annual Turkey Trot

Stuff the starting line Thanksgiving morning

Bree Lee Lo, June Enele, Lemoe Eneliko and Moira Anemia pose for a photo taken by Alexandra and Barron Anemia. All were on hand to celebrate Samoa's Rugby League World Cup run. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Local rugby fans celebrate Samoa’s World Cup run

“Win our lose, we’re still proud.”

Glacier Swim Club finds success in Petersburg

Twenty Juneau students competed in the November swim meet hosted in Petersburg over the weekend.

The 2022-23 Thunder Mountain girls varsity volleyball team poses for a group photo during 2022 3A/4A Volleyball State Championships in Anchorage on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 10 and 11. (Courtesy Photo / Julie Herman)
TMHS volleyball wraps up stellar season

Falcons fall short of finals at State tournament

TMHS stands for team photo after state tournament at Bartlett High School in Anchorage on Saturday, Nov. 5. (Courtesy Photo / Josiah Loseby)
Juneau swim teams make a splash at state championship

“We all performed well and we all had a good time.”

Juneau Skating Club Forget-Me-Not team featured in last year’s spring event. The team is traveling to Irvine, California to compete in the Glacier Falls Classic on Saturday, Nov. 12. (Courtesy Photo / Kim Hort)
Forget-Me-Not skaters return to California

Juneau Skating Club team competes in Glacier Fall Classic.

Thunder Mountain girls varsity volleyball team celebrating their championship victory against JDHS on Saturday, Nov. 5. TMHS now heads to the state tournament in Anchorage to face Colony in the first round on Thursday, Nov. 10. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
TMHS volleyball team advances to state tournament

Falcons will take on Colony in Anchorage Nov. 11

Large crowds turned out to support high school swimmers through Alaska at the Region V meet on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28, 29 at in Juneau at Dimond Park Aquatic Center. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Prep swim teams score big at Region V meet

TMHS and JDHS swim teams score big at Region V meet

JDHS junior Mila Hargrave winds up to spike the ball while TMHS junior Ashlyn Gates attempts to deflect it. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Volleyball wraps up regular season

Region tournament set for Nov. 4 and Nov. 5