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Outdoor skating in Amherst is available at Amherst Middle School and the Davis Lane tennis courts. Courtesy photo.




Skate safe

It takes a long time for ice to freeze, which is why you’ll typically see more people pond or lake skating in February than December. 
Before you get out, visit wildlife.state.nh.us, which has a whole slew of information on ice safety, from how to measure ice thickness to what to do if you fall through.
 
More hockey
Pond hockey tournaments: The Pond Hockey Classic at Lake Winnipesaukee (“Lake WinnipeHockey”) is full but you can watch it Thursday, Feb. 2, through Sunday, Feb. 5; visit pondhockeyclassic.com. The Black Ice Pond Hockey Championships happens Feb. 10 through Feb. 12 at White Park in Concord; visit blackicepondhockey.com.
Organizations: Younger skaters can learn more about the New Hampshire Amateur Hockey Association at nhhockey.com, and older skaters can check out the Granite State Hockey League at granitestatehockeyleague.com, which is aimed at adult skaters.
 
Skate indoors
Here are some local rinks if you’d rather skate with a roof over your head. Some are home to figure skating clubs, and most offer public, learn to skate or hockey programs. Visit their sites for details.
• Everett Arena, 15 Loudon Road, Concord, 228-2784, concordnh.gov/skating
• Conway Arena, 5 Stadium Drive, Nashua, 595-2400, conwayarena.com
• The Rinks at Exeter, 40 Industrial Drive, Exeter, 775-7423, therinksatexeter.com
• Tri-Town Ice Arena, 311 W. River Road, Hooksett, 485-1100, tri-townicearena.com
• JFK Coliseum, 303 Beech St., Manchester, 624-6567, manchesternh.gov
• Ice Den, 600 Quality Drive, Hooksett, 668-0795, theiceden.com
• Dover Ice Arena, 110 Portland Ave., Dover, 516-6060, doverarena.com
• Merrill Fay Arena, 468 Province Road, Laconia, 528-0789, laconiaicearena.com
• Icenter, 60 Lowell Road, Salem, 893-4448, icentersalem.com
• Cyclones Arena, 20 Constitution Drive, Hudson, 880-4424, northerncyclones.com
• Rochester Ice Arena, 63 Lowell St., Rochester, 335-6749, rochesternh.net/recreation-arena
• West Side Ice Arena, 1 Electric St., Manchester, 624-6428, manchesternh.gov
 
Figure skating in Southern NH
Hockey dominates New Hampshire rinks, but there are some southern New Hampshire figure skating clubs throughout the state where you can learn to jump and spin on ice, or watch others do it at upcoming exhibitions. All offer beginner group and private lessons via staff coaches.
 
• Central New Hampshire Skating Academy
Where they skate: Merrill Fay Arena, Laconia
Website: cnhskatingacademy.org
Events: There’s an auction to raise money for the skating club’s ice time Thursday, March 9, at 6:30 p.m., at the Beane Conference Center (35 Blueberry Lane, Laconia), and the Thirteenth Annual Skating Benefit on Saturday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m., at the arena.
About: The club is currently run by a few skating moms and is geared toward beginner skaters.
 
• Gate City Figure Skating Club
Where they skate: Conway Arena, Nashua
Website: gatecityfsc.com
Events: Scott Hamilton Skate to Eliminate Cancer on Saturday, April 8, and the spring exhibition is scheduled to happen Saturday, June 3.
About: The Nashua-based club’s claim to fame is being the largest in the state with about 170 members. The nonprofit also performs charity work, holds regular holiday parties, facilitates off-ice training for members and has four synchro teams.
 
• Granite State Figure Skating Club
Where they skate: Tri-Town Ice Arena, Hooksett
Website: granitestatefsc.com
Events: Its “March to Victory” competition is in April, and its annual exhibition is in June. 
About: The club was founded in 2001 by current skating director Jen Hurley and offers Learn to Skate and group figure skating and private lessons. It houses about 40 members who hail from Hooksett and southern New Hampshire towns like Derry, Goffstown and Bedford. 
 
• Great Bay Figure Skating Club
Where they skate: Dover Ice Arena, Dover
Website: greatbayfigureskating.org
Events: Their annual spring exhibition, themed “Calendars,” is Saturday, April 8, at 10 a.m.
About: The club is more than 40 years old and boasts about 50 members, including those in the learn-to-skate program. Members come from southern New Hampshire and Maine. 
 
• Ice Skating Club of Exeter (I.C.E.)
Where they skate: The Rinks at Exeter
Website: therinksatexeter.com
Events: There’s an 80’s-themed exhibition Saturday, May 6, at 4 p.m.
About: The club is just over a decade old and is run by Mark Farrington, director of skating at The Rinks of Exeter, which comprises two rinks, one reserved for hockey, one for figure skating and learn to skate programs.
 
• Southern New Hampshire Figure Skating Club
Where they skate: JFK Coliseum in Manchester, but it also offers ice times and programs at the Sullivan Arena at Saint Anselm College and the Ice Den Arena
Website: snhsc.com
Events: Its annual ice revue, “The Envelope, Please!”, is Saturday, March 25, at 1 and 7 p.m. at the JFK Coliseum, and has an Academy Awards theme. 
About: It’s New Hampshire’s longest-running skating organization, founded in 1964, and some members have been with the club almost as long. It hosts regular skate-a-thons, learn-to-skate programs and private lessons.
 
Skate outside
Here are some of the places to skate outside in southern New Hampshire; for more information, call the rink businesses or respective town recreation departments.
 
• Amherst: The town maintains rinks at Amherst Middle School (14 Cross Road) and at the Davis Lane tennis courts in Amherst Village, and resurfaces them a few times a week. Hockey is allowed on the AMS rink only during set times; visit amherstnh.myrec.com for a schedule. It offers lights for night-time skating, benches and 6-inch nets for pond skating.
• Auburn: The basketball courts near Auburn’s safety complex (Pingree Hill Road) get flooded in the winter time and are maintained by the town. Included are lights and a nearby parking lot. 
• Bedford: Bedford’s Parks Division of the Public Works Department maintains Anagnost Family Pond, which is located at the Bedford Village Common Park off Bell Hill Road behind the Bedford Public Library (which is at 3 Meetinghouse Road). 
• Bow: The Bow Town Pond, located next to the community center (Bow Center Road) and the sledding hill, is cleared by the town. 
• Brookline: The town maintains a manmade rink at the Brookline Ball Park, which is on Route 130 near the Frances Drive intersection. It’s about 130 by 70 feet and offers a warming hut full of skates to borrow and benches. There’s a Winter Festival with a family skate night and hockey tournament Friday, Feb. 17, through Sunday, Feb. 19; visit facebook.com/groups/BrooklineSkatingRink for details.
• Concord: The city maintains three outdoor rinks — White Park (White Street), the Beaver Meadows Golf Course (1 Beaver Meadows Drive) and Rollins Park (33 Bow St.). Skating is free. The largest patch of maintained ice is at White Park, where the city is working to develop a new skate house that will eventually offer skate rentals. White Park is also home to one of the most popular sledding hills in Concord. At the golf course there are groomed cross-country ski trails to explore after skating.
• Derry: The town maintains two patches of ice, at Hood Pond (at Hood Park, 4 Rollins St.) and Gallien’s Town Beach (39 Pond Road). 
• Durham: Churchill Rink at Jackson’s Landing (10 Old Piscataqua Road, Durham, 868-3907) is probably the most extravagant “outdoor” rink you’ll find in the state; not only does it offer changing rooms, a snack bar, skate-sharpening, skate rentals and rest rooms, it also gets cleaned by a Zamboni and is covered by a roof. You can view the skating schedule at churchillrink.org. Public skating is $5 for children and $7 for adults. 
• Hopkinton: The town maintains ice near the Kimball Lake Cabins (at about 185 Main St., located off a dirt road, near The Number 5 Tavern) for Winter Fun events; the next are weather-dependent but  scheduled to occur Sunday, Feb. 12, and Sunday, Feb. 26, from noon to 3 p.m. At this time, visitors can borrow skates, drink hot cocoa and toast s’mores on a fire. The events are free but donations are accepted. Outside these events, community members are encouraged to skate here (at their own risk) though they must clear the surfaces themselves. Visit hopkintonrec.com.
• Manchester: In the Queen City, the place to be is Dorrs Pond, adjacent to Livingston Park (Hooksett Road), which isn’t open yet but gets plowed and flooded when the weather cooperates, said Janet Horvath, recreation and enterprise manager with Manchester’s Parks, Recreation & Cemetery Commission; check facebook.com/CityOfManchesterNHParksRec for updates. Alongside the pond is a warming hut, and nearby is a one-mile trail you could walk before or after skating.
• Merrimack: The O’Gara Drive Recreation Arena houses a man-made rink every winter and is directly across the street from Mastricola Upper Elementary School (26 Baboosic Lake Road). It’s maintained by the Merrimack Public Works Department and volunteers. Lights turn on after dark for evening skating from 4:30 to 10 p.m.; visit facebook.com/MerrimackParksandRecreation for updates.
• Milford: The town and local volunteers typically maintains two temporary rinks at Shepard Park (Nashua Street, between Shepard and Linden streets), but they’re currently closed; visit milford.nh.gov for information on their re-opening. 
• Nashua: Right now the only rink ready to skate on in the Gate City is the flooded patch of ice at the Jeff Morin Field at Roby Park (Split Brook Road), which has general skating hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (no hockey) and stick and puck from 8 to 10 p.m. When the weather cooperates, both Labine Park (Cleveland Street) and Four Corners (Sargent Avenue) are maintained. You can check on the status at nashuanh.gov.
• Portsmouth: It’s all about Puddle Dock Pond at the Strawbery Banke Museum (14 Hancock St., strawberybanke.org, 422-0600), a seasonal outdoor rink open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily that stays skate-ready longer than most due to a chiller beneath the ice’s surface. It offers pond hockey and learn-to-skate hours in addition to public skating, plus adaptive ice (for skaters with accessibility/mobility concerns) and the Coffee Club on Wednesdays (at which time you can skate with a professional). There’s also an on-ice fire pit, nearby cafe and atmosphere reminiscent of a Currier and Ives scene, said Stephanie Seacord, the Strawbery Banke marketing director. Admission is $9 for children and $11 for adults at peak hours (with free skating Tuesdays 9 to 10 a.m. and 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 to 10:45 a.m.). It sees 20,000 guests each year.
• Stratham: Stratham Hill Park (270 Portsmouth Ave.) is the place to go in Stratham; whether it’s skateable or not depends on temperatures, and you can check the status at facebook.com/StrathamHillPark. It comprises two rinks — one natural, one constructed for hockey players. When open, it offers lights until 9 p.m. for night skating, a warming hut and firepit.




Fun on Ice
Lace up your skates and embrace the cold

02/02/17
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 One of the few perks to below-freezing weather is ice skating.

The sport sometimes takes a backseat to skiing, but it’s way more accessible than the downhill pastime. You can do it anywhere — on a pond, at a rink, in a park, or, if you’re really ambitious, in your backyard — and it’s less expensive, sometimes even free.
For a lot of people, lacing up a pair of skates spurs nostalgia — the smell of the rink, the sound of your blade on the ice! — but if you missed out on skating lessons as a kid, there’s still time.
“It’s never too early or too late to start skating,” said Teri Nordle, coach and longtime member of the Southern New Hampshire Figure Skating Club. “If you can walk, you can skate.”
Whether you’re a veteran or a total beginner, the Granite State offers many ways to get in on the action, from hockey leagues and figure skating clubs to outdoor tournaments and quaint skating locales with firepits and warming huts. 
If you’re skating outside, keep yourself safe by checking with Parks and Recreation representatives on ice conditions or measure the ice thickness yourself before lacing up.
 
Start with skates
Nordle tells prospective students there’s “no such thing as weak ankles” — but there is such thing as weak skates. Most important is finding a pair with solid support.
“If you can bend your ankles side to side, then that’s not good support,” said Jen Hurley, skating director at the Granite State Figure Skating Club, who also runs The Inside Edge, a skate shop in Tri-Town Arena. “With a good leather boot, if you’re holding it from behind, you can’t squeeze [the sides] together.”
Figure skates should be leather and lace-up with steel blades. No plastic, no buckles. Fit should be snug and secure without thick socks.
“You don’t want it to feel like you have one giant blade swimming around under your foot,” Hurley said. “It should fit like a glove with a thin silk sock. If you’re wearing 16 pairs of socks, you’re going to cut your circulation off.” 
But you don’t want them too tight either — particularly with hockey skates.
“Skates have so much support these days, so you don’t need something that’s super-tight and glued to your foot. If you look at [hockey] skates nowadays, they’re made with high-performance carbon and are as stiff as a ski boot,” said Chad Gamache, assistant manager at Skaters Edge in Manchester. 
Gamache and Hurley recommend sharpening after every 10 hours of ice time, maybe less if your style is more recreational. Serious skaters who’ve made investments in their footwear might want to consider purchasing a second pair of pond-only skates if they want to skate outside.
“Ponds have a lot of natural elements, like sand and pine needles, and all these things that are on ponds can disturb the edges of your skates,” Gamache said. “At the same time, if you’re a recreational skater skating on a backyard rink or pond once or twice a week, it’s not going to throw your skates off too much.”
 
Pucks and toe picks
Ice skating is rooted in New Hampshire culture, hockey especially; practically every indoor rink in the state has an affiliated hockey program, and some of the state’s most popular ice events are hockey-related, from college and Monarchs games to the Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament in Concord’s White Park and the Pond Hockey Classic on Lake Winnipesaukee. 
“Ice hockey is part of the community here,” said Mike Gamache, a Goffstown resident (and Chad Gamache’s dad) who still plays on Manchester’s 40-plus league. “I remember going to JFK watching the original Monarchs team play at the JFK Coliseum. I have memories of spending time there with my dad, cousins, friends.”
This is a common story in New Hampshire.
“It’s a sport for life,” said Paul Comeau, president of the New Hampshire Amateur Hockey Association. “You see guys who played in high school together now playing on men’s teams until they’re 50.”
Comeau said the sport has grown locally the past couple decades; about 6,000 members are now registered with USA Hockey through NHAHA. This is in part due to the effort by USA Hockey, and also because there are just more New Hampshire rinks to build programs around.
This is also why the state has more figure skating clubs today than in decades past. Hurley grew up in Merrimack but trained in Massachusetts as an amateur skater.
“We didn’t have the rinks up here like we do now,” Hurley said. “They were the dark ages. … It’s definitely picked up compared to 20 years ago. I’m 46, and when I was skating in the ’70s and ’80s, there was nothing here.”
 
Brave the elements
The classic way to ice skate is on a pond or lake.
“We didn’t have the rinks available like we do today. You drive by a pond today, and it’s kind of unusual to see kids playing pond hockey,” Comeau said. 
But if you’re going to skate like this, it’s important to abide by some safety precautions. 
“The key to ice safety is to realize ice doesn’t freeze the same — even on the same pond. It depends on the inlets coming in, and the vegetation [underneath] the ice,” said Lt. David Walsh of New Hampshire Fish and Game via phone. “If there’s an area with thick vegetation, that tends not to freeze well. … And ice can’t be as thick if there’s moving water underneath. There are lots of hidden elements you just don’t know. … You have to test it for yourself.”
Test it with an auger (which drills a hole into the ice — used mostly for ice fishing) or an ice fishing chisel (which you can get for $10 to $15, Walsh said, at a sporting goods store), drilling holes as you step out, little by little. Ice should be four inches or thicker. For extra precaution, you should always skate with someone else and wear a set of ice picks around your neck, which can help you pull yourself out if you do fall through.
 
Do it yourself
Many towns maintain patches of outdoor ice (see box for an outdoor rink near you), but with a flat yard, a bit of money and, OK, a lot of work, you can create your own. It’s not that hard, said Mike Gamache, and is worth the effort if you’ve got kids at home.
“Other than the local sledding hill, [our] rink became the playground in the neighborhood,” he said. “I remember we’d have weekends where kids were playing here all day long.”
It involves creating a frame with wooden boards (his was 70 by 30 feet), and covering it with an enormous sheet of plastic, no less than six millimeters thick, which you’ll have to replace each year.
“It’s like filling up a swimming pool,” he said. “You can drape the plastic over the top [of the frame] and secure it how you want.”
Key to success is choosing a spot with little sun (though perhaps not directly under a tree, which might mean more debris on the surface). Maintenance includes regularly sweeping and squeegeeing precipitation before adding new coats via a spray hose. About three to four inches creates a firm base. 
“Ice is stronger if you add to it in small layers. Spray the entire surface of the rink with a coating of water, and the next time you go out it will be like glass,” Mike Gamache said. 





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