On this beautiful, sunny and warm (25 degrees … it’s all relative) Saturday I took a trip to see something I’d been wanting to explore for awhile now: the Alton Bay ice runway on Lake Winnipesaukee. I had only come across it once from the road, and even then hadn’t spent much time. So this morning I drove to the southern end of the lake and …
… this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
The runway is about 3000′ long and the ice approximately 18″ thick. Dictated by Mother Nature, it is the only FAA-sanctioned ice runway in the lower 48 states.
Today there were many people – most with cameras – out on the ice with me, watching the planes take off and land. All are small single-engine aircraft. There is no control tower and although there is radio contact with pilots, they pretty much govern themselves. For obvious reasons they cannot use their brakes. Landing on ice can be tricky.
Volunteers keep this runway operational, plow it after snowstorms, and help with parking the planes. Today was a rare storm-free and windless day, perfect for a fly-in. In addition to the airplanes there were countless snowmobilers, bobhouses, fishermen, and people simply out on the ice walking their dogs. Everyone wanted to be outdoors today.
Around for more than 30 years, this little wintertime runway brings life to Alton Bay in the dead of winter. Pilots support the businesses in the Bay, and visitors like me flock to watch something you can’t see anywhere else. Yes, winter in New Hampshire is long … but while it’s here, its residents sure know how to make the most of it.