Micheal Ashton began his skating journey on the other side of the world, in Pretoria, South Africa, before finding a life-long passion and making it a career. After nearly 30 years on the Strip, he’s seen the skating scene grow immensely in the Las Vegas Valley while contributing to it himself. 

As a coach in the Vegas Golden Knights Skating Academy presented by Atomic Golf, Ashton believes his job is to hand down his knowledge of the sport and the joy that comes with it. Read more about his journey and his advice to skaters and their parents in this Q&A: 

Q: How did you get into skating and what was your path to Las Vegas?
A; I'm from South Africa, originally. We didn't have a lot of ice rinks there and they happened to put an ice rink in my town, which is called Pretoria.  I was just smitten from the first time I saw it. An ice show came by, and I thought my god these people are flying. I used to drag my parents all over the place. I played rugby. I swam, I was on the track team. I have three brothers, who were all on the South African team, we represented South Africa. I went to Europeans a couple of times. But then I stopped competing. I was in Monte Carlo and a show hired me in Europe, when I was just like 17 years old. When I was 20, someone saw me compete and said do you want to come to Las Vegas for a three-month contract? And I worked on the Strip for 28 years. Then, I started teaching here when there was only one rink on Boulder highway. But anyway, I've been doing this that long, and I've done really well.

Q: How did you start coaching with this specific program and what do you love about it?
A: When they opened the rink up here and they didn't even have the ice in, I was called up. One of the arena managers came down and saw me skating at another rink, said he said, ‘We’re opening a new rink, would you be interested in coming up? And I came up and that was it.

Q: How has the Las Vegas skating scene grown in the last several years?
A: It's wonderful to have the facilities. That first season of the [Vegas Golden Knight] in 2018, it just took off. This place started buzzing. People started coming in and, in that way, we’ve done excellent. Our skate school is wonderful.

Q: What advice would give to skaters and parents about joining the Learn to Skate school?
A: It's a commitment, come in and try it out. But this is nothing that's done in your clubhouse. I think for parents, skate school is such a great learning experience, a school and structure to come out here and progress through it. Come get a feel. I mean it's really well structured. They’ve got coaches if you feel like you need private lessons and they're really good at front desk experience. But it’s a commitment, like everything else. The kids have to love it and the parents have to commit. This is nothing easy. That's what I hope parents take from it, is that it is a commitment and that some kids just learn at different speeds to other kids.

Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching?
A:  The reason I think anybody becomes good is because someone mentors you. Somebody just shows you a little bit of interest and makes a difference where you are. One of my coaches in Austria told me this, ‘I'm not leaving here until you know what you're doing. My job is to hand down what I was taught by someone who believed in me.’ And that's what I think is really my job, is not to teach you. It’s to teach you how to skate better, correctly, but also to teach you to keep that love of skating and keep the joy that you feel. I’ve skated all over the world, I've been everywhere. You go to an ice rink, and you may not speak the language, but everybody's skating with a smile on their face, and that you have in common. And that's that love. All of us started off in a public session somewhere, trying it out, and it's just the joy of skating. Then comes the technique of it.