See, I disagree about figures. Does anyone remember getting up at the crack of dawn to practice your figures on a small patch of ice? I found that stroking/edge coaches are much more important (and less expensive) to learn your edges instead of toiling on a figures patch for hours on end. It just seems as if some old-timers look back decades with fondness and a romanticized view of yesteryear. Figures were for the most part judged politically, ruined a skater's Olympic dreams, and really didn't help someone's SKATING. (For instance, Schuba was awesome at figures and was a very mediocre skater, while Lynn was terrible at figures yet her skating is legendary). It still boggles my mind that no one helped Surya on her basic edging and stroking, or that Mama refused to let anyone help Surya with such a fundamental requirement for good skating.
My complaint with practicing figures on a patch was that it taught you to do your edges and turns looking down, a very hard habit to break.