THE FROZEN PLAIN OF THE LAKE, turned pewter-gray in the afternoon light, emits booming noises as the ice shifts and groans beneath our weight. Sailing over the glassy surface of Phillips Pond in Sandown, New Hampshire, the blades of my skates make a whisk-whisk sound, my 10-year-old nephew, Owen, gliding along beside me. Owen’s dog pads ahead of our tiny skating party, sniffing the ice for the blur of a fox or rabbit crossing the lake from forest to vale.
Here in New England, the right combination of penetrating cold and precipitation creates a brief, memorable season for pond skating, usually from late December through January: an elemental adventure of cold air, ice, trees, and sky. We enjoy hiking to ponds on snowshoes, carrying our skates, hockey sticks, shovels, water, and a few calorie-dense snacks. Today, on Phillips Pond, where my nephews live, we’re traveling light, with a couple of high-tech layers beneath our fleece jackets, the kids decked out in their hockey helmets and shin pads.