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Spokane-raised skater at home on the ice

‘Disney on Ice’ show a homecoming for 26-year-old Cowan

Kristin Cowan started skating when she was 5 years old.

It seemed natural. Her mother, after all, joined the Ice Capades when she was 18.

Over the years, Cowan put in her time at Eagles Ice-A-Rena as a member of the Lilac City Figure Skating Club. She competed a bit as a child, but by her teen years she wasn’t doing it for the awards. It was fun.

Now, six years into a professional ice skating career, Cowan is thrilled to be performing for a hometown crowd as Ariel in “Disney on Ice: Rockin’ Ever After.”

The 26-year-old joined the Disney troupe a year ago in July and is in her second season as Ariel, the mermaid princess who falls in love with a human.

Ariel’s story is one of four princess tales told on the ice. There’s also Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” Rapunzel from “Tangled” and, for the first time on ice, Merida from Pixar’s “Brave.” Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald and Goofy are there as well, weaving the stories together.

Cowan, the daughter of North By Northwest co-founder Rich Cowan and former KXLY news director Robin Briley, graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 2005. From there, she enrolled at Santa Clara University in California to study accounting.


“Really different, I know,” she said in a recent telephone interview.

When the opportunity came to take a year off from school and skate with Holiday on Ice, a Dutch skating troupe that tours Europe, Cowan jumped at the chance. One year turned into four, as she skated in dozens of European countries. Then she spent another year doing smaller shows. After that, she joined Disney on Ice.

Last year’s 10-month season had the “Rockin’ Ever After” show touring the East Coast. This year, they’re out West, giving Cowan a chance to perform for family.

“I’m really excited to be home,” she said. “I’ve always wanted my grandparents to be able to watch the show live, because they’ve only seen it on video.”

One of the things those grandparents will watch their granddaughter do is a stunt that required several weeks of circus training before show rehearsals started last summer. The stunt, which depicts when Ariel gets her legs, is called the Spanish web.

“I’m about 30 feet up and I’m on a rope,” Cowan said. “And I have a guy on the bottom spinning me. And I’m just flying around up there.”

That routine leads into her pair skate to “Kiss the Girl” with Prince Eric, skated by her real-life beau, Sean Wirtz.

“It’s definitely my favorite part of the show,” she said.

After nearly a lifetime on the ice, Cowan still loves it, she said.

“My mom put me on the ice, so I wanted to copy her and be like her a bit because I thought it was cool that she could skate around and look so pretty,” Cowan said. “It’s a good sport and it’s freeing. It’s you and you’re out on the ice and you have all your thoughts to yourself.”

She knows skating won’t last forever. When her career is done, she’ll return to school from her “one year break” and begin the next part of her life.

“I’m going to get my degree and do something totally different.”