When he was 17, Zimmerman moved to Atlanta to train. Relatively speaking, it wasn't that far, but it was a big adjustment for him.
"I just had a hard time leaving home," Zimmerman, now 36, said.
He found comfort in pairs skating, getting a rush out of sharing the ice with some of those cute girls who had helped sway his decision to remain a skater.
"I liked lifting the girls and throwing them and doing acrobatic things," he said. "To me, it was the macho side of skating."
In 1998, Zimmerman paired with Kyoko Ina. The two won three national titles together before turning pro after the 2002 World Championships. They spent the next six years touring with Stars on Ice.
"It's the tour that I grew up watching," Zimmerman said. "It's a dream to be able to make a living doing what you love."
It's a dream that Zimmerman wasn't going to let die just because Ina decided not to rejoin the tour this year. Instead, he's hitting the ice this season as a solo skater with Stars on Ice.
"I figured, this is the best gig of my life right now," he said. "I have fun, and I'm making money. Let's just keep going it until my body gives out."
The skating isn't the only fun aspect of the job. Zimmerman loves to travel, and Stars on Ice will visit 40 U.S. cities this year. Zimmerman said shows are generally on weekends, which gives him and the other skaters time to sightsee and explore during the week.
Beyond Stars on Ice, skating has taken him everywhere from Tokyo to Siberia. He trained in Russia for four months.
"These are places I would never dream of going," he said. "I can't get enough of it."
He's also had the chance to rub elbows with some of his sport's biggest and brightest stars. Zimmerman said he knew he'd arrived when Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano acknowledged him years ago at a skating competition.
Another Olympic gold medalist, Scott Hamilton, founded the Stars on Ice tour. Now in its 23rd year, it's sponsored by Smucker's and features a constantly changing cast of Olympic, world and national champions. Sasha Cohen, who won silver at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, is one of the headliners of the current tour.
Smucker's Stars on Ice visits Times Union Center in Albany Sunday, March 29, for a 3 p.m. show. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at the Times Union Center Box Office, by visiting www.starsonice.com or www.timesunion.com or by calling 800-30-EVENT. ""