Upper Valley pair creates skating group for Mascoma Lake

  • Co-chairmen of the Mascoma Lake Skating Association Joan Holcombe, left, and Mary Reynolds, both of Enfield, N.H., attach a skating sign at Lakeside Park in Enfield, on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Photographed on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 at Lakeside Park in Enfield, N.H. Mary Reynolds, left, and Joan Holcombe, both of Enfield, are the co-chairmen of the Mascoma Lake Skating Association. The group is hoping to provide outdoor options for skaters this winter. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 12/16/2020 9:54:06 PM
Modified: 12/17/2020 9:40:01 PM

ENFIELD — Joan Holcombe and Mary Reynolds both grew up skating on frozen bodies of water, and they can envision a similar scenario on Mascoma Lake. A lot of other people apparently see that, too.

Holcombe and Reynolds admit they’ve been taken aback by the response to their formation of the Mascoma Lake Skating Association. The new group has started raising the funds necessary to debut this winter, with the goal of opening a skating trail on the lake’s southern half, similar to what Fairlee’s Lake Morey has had for many years.

It’s only been about a month since the Enfield neighbors started reaching out with their idea, which is quickly gaining steam as the lake slowly gains ice.

“The response has been amazing,” Reynolds said last week while standing in the parking lot of Enfield’s Lakeside Park, which will serve as a base of operations. “Joanie and I talked about it. We both skate when we can out here in the winter. People ski out here; people snowmobile out here. I used to live on Occom Pond, so I sort of know the value of what a great resource it is to have skating available.”

The background work dominates for now, until the ice comes.

The concept borrows from what happens every winter on Lake Morey and at Hanover’s Occom Pond. Dartmouth College scrapes Occom into an open skating surface, while the Lake Morey Inn and Resort sets up a 4½-mile loop on its adjacent lake, occasionally using it for fundraising events such as the annual Upper Valley Trails Alliance Skate-a-thon. It’s one of the few dedicated skating trails in the region.

As popular as that route and event are, dedicated skating trails remain scarce. Ben Prime, owner of Nordic Skater in Newbury, N.H., who is consulting on the MLSA’s plans, thinks Mascoma Lake has potential.

“To name others that are kept up, there aren’t any,” Prime said in a Wednesday phone interview. “That’s what my goal is, to get more associations or inns to buy into what Lake Morey does.”

Holcombe would like to have a loop of 2½ to 3 miles in length, beginning and ending at Lakeside Park. The route would reverse near Gray’s Marina on Route 4A to avoid snowmobile trails that cross Mascoma Lake at its southernmost end.

Reynolds and Holcombe aren’t looking for a perfect circle, nor is Prime likely to design one. Although he plows some smaller ponds near his Sutton, N.H., home, Prime is planning a meandering route that will challenge skaters and take advantage of Mascoma Lake’s few islands.

“I get bored with loops, so I try to make winding trails that ask more of a skater than just going straight,” he said. “I have my initial design early in the season when there’s decent ice, and before that first snow it’s easy. As the maintenance changes, it’s ever-adapting. You can only get away with certain things on the ice, and snow drifts and pack snow then create the trail.”

Trail plowing will be the association’s greatest expense. Reynolds would like to raise $6,000 at the outset to cover two years of operations; she’s off to a good start.

“We have to get everything established to make this operational,” Reynolds added.

Reynolds grew up skating as a child in Connecticut. She had an indoor rink next to her elementary school and a pond across the street from it for outdoor opportunities in winter.

“That was our after-school day care,” said Reynolds, who also lived by — and frequently skated on — Occom Pond for 15 years before moving to Enfield. “We literally went skating every single day. Our parents would pick us up at 5:30. I skated there a long time.”

Similarly, southern New Hampshire native Holcombe frequented lakes, ponds “and, every once in a while, a river” when she was a kid. The response to the arrival of the Mascoma Lake Skating Association leaves her optimistic for its future.

“It’s fun to see all of the whole Enfield-and-beyond community really come to the whole energy of it and make it happen,” she said.

All they need now is for nature to do its part.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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