Hard, manual labor in the first light of dawn at negative-degree temperatures is what a bystander may see when looking out onto Squam Lake during the late winter months. But for over a century, Rockywold Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake has sustained a winter tradition that camp employees and a group of hardworking volunteers look forward to each February. As soon as the lake-top is frozen solid, about 11 to 12 inches thick, the camp’s annual ice harvest begins. Each block of ice uniform, measuring in at 15.5 inches by 19.5 inches and weighing over 100 pounds. The ice cultivated in these frigid morning hours will keep campers’ perishables cold all summer long in the icebox that adorns each cabin.
Ice harvesting began in the United States in the early 1800s to do exactly what Rockywold Deephaven Camps uses the practice for to this day. Insulated ice boxes began to pop up in the homes of everyday Americans and there was a need for ice to fill them with. A similar scene to agriculture of the day began to take shape: Sometimes people would cultivate the ice blocks with tools and, other times, horses would pull ice cutters across the tops of frozen ponds — much like a plow would be pulled across a field of crops.
And Rockywold Deephaven Camps isn’t the only place surrounding Lake Winnipesaukee that is keeping this over 100-year-old tradition alive in the Lakes Region. As a part of their annual Ice Harvest & Winter Carnival, the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm lets visitors view ice harvesting demonstrations and even cut an ice block with their own mitten-clad hands. The Winter Carnival preserves other New England traditions as well, like outdoor cooking, old-fashioned animal trapping, and ice fishing.
Other Icy Outings in the Lakes Region:
The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is teaching a new generation of Lakes Region residents and visitors about an age-old tradition. Their Intro to Ice Fishing classes, held on various weekend mornings throughout January and February, teaches students which scaly sea-dwellers remain active in the barely above freezing water beneath a thick layer of ice. Once you know what to look for, the instructor teaches how to mimic their natural food and entice them to your line.
Pond Hockey Classic
For one weekend each winter, Lake Winnipesaukee hosts a conglomerate of hockey purists from around the United States and Canada for the New England Pond Hockey Classic. Nearly 300 teams face off in more than 500 games over the course of three wind-chilled days. Lakes Region hockey got its start on this hallowed lake top, so huddle around a barrel fire and get ready to relive New Hampshire history.
On days when the wind is just right, you’ll see “ice boats,” basically wooden boats mounted to three machete-sized ice skates, taking to the lake. Sailors resemble lugers, leaning back and looking over their toes as they manipulate their sail with a long steering wheel at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour. To catch one of these ice-faring vessels in action, visit the banks of Lake Waukewan in Meredith, the Town Beach in Center Harbor, and, of course, all around Lake Winnipesaukee.