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Homeyer: Nordic Skates

03/05/12 5:55PM By Henry Homeyer
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(Host)  Commentator Henry Homeyer is a garden writer and educator, who likes to be outside year round.  This winter, Nordic skating on smooth lakes and ponds has been his salvation.

(Homeyer)  For those of us who enjoy snow, this has been a miserable winter. Until recently there's been very little of the white stuff for skiing or snowshoeing on back-country trails. Even the resorts that make snow have had less than perfect conditions due to rain and warm temperatures. But it's inspired me to re-discover a sport I used to enjoy as a kid, because the lack of snow means the ponds and lakes in the area have been good for skating.

Growing up in the fifties and sixties in rural Connecticut, I was a skater. We didn't have much snow then either, so we skated and played hockey on a farm pond. We wore lace-up leather hockey skates that were uncomfortable and cold, but there were few alternatives, and with little else to do after school, I skated.

Now, 50 years later, I‘ve discovered the joys of Nordic skating which is even better than the skating I did as a kid. For starters, Nordic skates have comfortable boots that I can put on in just a few seconds, and they're warm, even on cold days. The inner boot has laces that tighten just by pulling at the top. There's a zipper to close up the outer boot, and Velcro for added ankle support.

Nordic skates have aluminum blades that are thicker and longer than the blades of hockey or figure skates. They glide over the bumps and cracks in the ice and support my ankles so nicely that I find it easy to stand still without having my ankles turn.

Of course, one has to be careful when skating on ponds and lakes. Inlets and springs can create thin ice or open water, so I depend on the ice fishermen to guide me. They know where it's safe to be. I also wear special "claws" around my neck - mini ice picks that would allow me to pull myself out if the ice broke.

For several years the Lake Morey Inn has maintained a 4-mile loop around Lake Morey in Fairlee. It's said to be the longest groomed skating trail in the United States. When there is snow, they plow. That's important after the recent snow fall, as other lakes won't be skateable for awhile.

Skating on Lake Morey is like being transported in time and space - to Norway, perhaps, in the 1950's. On sunny weekend afternoons people of all ages skate this long loop, with snow-covered Mt. Moosilauke in the distance, presiding over it all. Spruce and hemlock grace the hills that rise up on the shoreline, and camps and lodges perch quietly near the ice, waiting for summer.

To me, Nordic skating feels like flying. When the ice is smooth it only takes a few kicks and I'm gliding across the ice. On a blue-sky day (or a full-moon night) skating on a pond or lake is as about as close to heaven as I may come while here on earth, so I play hooky every chance I get. I recommend it.
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