Unique Winter Activities on the South Shore Massachusetts
Brought to you by Hingham Realtor Alice Pierce serving the South Shore of Boston
This activity, like the last two articles in the Things to Do In and Around Hingham, may require an entire day, or even an overnight to makes things easier. Featured ideas are certainly within the realm of a day trip, but if you want to avoid a long day of driving to and from, best to consider them to be overnights.
Long Trails of Nordic Skating
Have you every tried Nordic skating? You aren’t likely to find it down the road, or in Hingham because the winter temperatures have fluctuated significantly, but this might just the thing you are looking for to perk you and your family up at the end of January.
Nordic skating is nothing short of invigorating, and unlike snow tubing, it does require some skill. It would not be the way to start off on ice skates for the very first time!
Nordic skating is a long glide on completely level terrain, the terrain being frozen water of course. The sport heralds from Scandinavia where cross-country ice skating is more the norm. Participants follow icy trails across ponds, canals, and lakes that are often interconnected. Wearing long-bladed skates and sometimes using poles for increased stability, balance and upper body exercise, the workout can go on for hours.
In the United States there is less opportunity for long distance ice skating because we lack the level terrain and friendly waterways. But here on the South Shore we are in luck because the longest skating trail in the country is less than a 3 hour drive away in Fairlee, Vermont
The Lake Morey Resort features a well groomed, 4.5-mile loop around the lake. There are also smaller ice rinks for skating and pick-up hockey games on the premises, as well as complimentary skate rentals for Lake Morey Resort guests, and paid equipment rentals for day trippers. There is a skate shack open on the weekends from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm.
The season at Lake Morey typically runs from late December to mid-March, with free parking for skaters at the Lake Morey Resort.
One can also find Nordic skating trails in places like Sunapee, Squam and Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire where there are large lakes that freeze up sufficiently in the winter months. There are also organized tours for Nordic skating outings. For example, Lake Sunapee offers a 17 mile trip with a lunch stop on Great Island, and Squam Lake has an 18 mile route that includes stops at picnic destinations. Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest area in New Hampshire for Nordic skating.
The Experience of Endless Skating
According to Nordic skating enthusiasts, the feeling of skating in a straight line for any length of time is unlike anything else. Described as rhythmic and effortless, it is a far cry from indoor rink ice skating. Skaters enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and gliding from one point to another instead of traveling in relatively small circles again and again.
Most skaters will do one or two laps around Lake Morey ice skating trail and call it a day. Consider that in 2015, the international skating tour on Lake Memphremagog covered 26 miles in Vermont and Quebec, and in Europe you can find tours that run 124 miles in a single day.
Nordic Skating Conditions
Just like the ski mountains, conditions for Nordic skating are as variable as New England weather. The warms makes for mushy, slippery ice, and refreezing can create bumps. The ideal Nordic skating conditions are when the black ice forms, usually early in the winter when the lakes have their first, good freeze. Black ice is the hardest, smoothest, fastest and strongest ice there is, and much harder than rink ice.
Add sunshine and low winds to the mix and you have a day of activity out in the fresh air of a New England winter. Partly cloudy days are fine too, and allow skaters to still have enough depth of field to judge the ice conditions as they glide along. On gray days, sometimes the landscape of the ice, clouds and trees can blend into a one dimensional canvas and make eyeballing the ice surface more challenging.
Many people plan their route around the wind direction and leave cars at two different locations . This way you can skate with the wind at your back the entire time.
Nordic Skating Gear
Most Nordic skating enthusiasts wear cross-country ski boots with a detachable, elongated steel blade that clips on and off the boot. This uses the same cross-country binding that’s on your skis. You can rent full skates, or simply wear the skates you already have. For resort Nordic skating with maintained trails you won’t need any other equipment. Just make sure you wear layers because, like cross-country skiing, the sustained endurance can make you warm up quickly.
Adventure on Skates
It is a much safer option to pay for Nordic skating at a resort. This ensures that the ice has been tested and tended to. But with plenty of water in New England, low temperatures and low snowfall brings out the more experienced or adventurous skaters.
These brave souls venture out on their own Nordic skating trails, even around Hingham when the weather is cold enough. BUT never, ever do this alone! While it is fine to consider this an option, safety is the first step. There have been many winters when Jacob’s Pond in Norwell is frozen, or the small pond in Hingham near Glastonbury Abbey is skate-able. Spotting others out on the ice is a good sign, but it does NOT mean you can abandon safety measures.
Having the right gear will make for a better, safer experience so consider ice-testing poles designed to test the strength of the ice. You stab the ice and if there is water, the ice is deemed unsafe. Carry “ice claws,” which are self-rescue devices worn on a neck strap around the neck and are used to pull yourself out if the ice breaks. A paddler’s throw bag is small enough to carry and has a rescue line inside of it.
Resources for Nordic Skating
To check skating conditions visit the Lake Morey Resort website
If you would like to see what the Nordic Skating area looks like, Lake Morey also has a live web cam.
This is a lovely video on a Scandinavian Hiking website that shows the landscape and gliding of an individual skating
Finally, this Nordic Skating video is from Scandinavia and something nice to look at.
Even though it feels like winter, spring will be upon us in the blink of an eye. Be prepared for your next real estate transaction by meeting with Alice Pierce, one of the best listing and selling agents on the South Shore of Boston. Alice Pierce is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and a lifelong resident of Hingham who knows all of the coastal towns and the neighborhoods within them. Whether you are interested in Hingham, MA, Cohasset, MA, Hull, MA, Norwell, MA and any other South Shore towns, give her a call at 781-724-7622, anytime. Alice Pierce can also be reached by email or through her Coldwell Banker real estate website.