Cross-country skaters search for the 'wild ice'
In Europe, long-distance skating thrives. Could it catch on in North America?
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For those who can't make it to frozen terrain in Sweden or Siberia, US tours go around Lake Champlain, Lake George, and up the Connecticut River. Ottawa, in Canada, boasts over 300 outdoor rinks and the famed Rideau Canal. Outside the capital city, another municipality, Portland, Ontario, has been promoting its circular outdoor rink on Big Rideau Lake. Other traditional ice boating areas – from the shores of the Hudson River and Red Bank, N.J., to Lake City, Minn. – also maintain clubs or hot lines that monitor ice conditions.Skip to next paragraph
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But the growth of the sport comes amid dwindling ice time. The US Geologic Survey conducted a study of 150 years of data from amateur pond watching and concluded the traditional ice-out dates – the big thaw – came nine days earlier in mountainous areas of New England and 16 days earlier in southern New England. "In Boston now," Hess says, "the season's measured in weeks."
Still, more winter rain has been good for resurfacing lakes. In late February, members of Maine's informal Chickawaukee Iceboaters Club park their cars on the thick glassy surface of Alford Lake. In home-built iceboats, Jory Squibb and Bill Buchholz whiz around at speeds of up to 50 m.p.h.
Dicky Saltonstall parks his iceboat, the Icywood, and pulls out a pair of skates from the back of his van. He catches the wind and says, "You feel like you're a barn swallow out for a little sail."