Celebrating winter the Squam Lake way



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Skating was just one of the many activities to be enjoyed this past weekend at the Squam Lake Association’s annual Winterfest celebration. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
January 19, 2011
HOLDERNESS—True lake lovers know that Squam is as lovely in the depths of winter as it is in the height of the summer season. There is nothing quite like the energy boost you get from breathing in the crisp, cold air out on the ice while absorbing the bright sunshine reflecting off the newly fallen snow.

There are so many ways to enjoy a January afternoon out on the ice, and all of them were on display as hundreds of attendees showed up for the annual Winterfest celebration at the Squam Lake Association (SLA) on Saturday afternoon.

Visitors were warmly welcomed to the festivities with a raging bonfire, blazing like a beacon, lighting up the shoreline in front of the boat house at the SLA. But few people dawdled in front of the fire. There was so much to see and do out on the ice. It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the 20's and snowflakes glistening like diamonds in the sunlight.

Each year on the Saturday of Civil Rights Day weekend, the Squam Lake Association pulls out all the stops, throwing a big party to highlight the many recreational opportunities open to adventurers on Squam Lake in winter.

It is a wonderful opportunity to try out a new activity, and to learn more about the many programs available all year round at the SLA.

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After snowshoeing on the lake, you could warm your feet at the bonfire on shore during Winterfest activities on Squam. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
The scene was festive, as dozens of skaters took to the ice on several rinks lovingly shoveled out of the snow for their enjoyment. Red cheeked children, bundled up in colorful parkas, laced up their skates on the "iced- in" wooden docks as their friends teetered and tottered with tentative first steps onto the ice. Several veteran figure skaters demonstrated their technique further out on the ice.

A five-hole miniature ice golf course was a novel challenge for those who didn't take to the blades, and an ice fishing demonstration introduced the curious to the favorite pastime of so many lake lovers.

Cross country skiing out on the open lake is exhilarating in winter. A two-mile course out to a cabin on Bowman Island was groomed by the Lake Association, and volunteers greeted skiers with a fire in the woodstove and hot chocolate as an added incentive for the journey.

But many visitors who showed up planning to cross-country ski on the lake opted to try out Nordic skating instead, clipping their boots right into the Nordic bindings and "ski skating" their way into the popular new speed sport.

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Congratulations to all the fine chefs from local restaurants who participated in this year’s annual Chili Contest at the SLA Winterfest. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
Snowshoes were also available for a leisurely bivouac in the woods.

Comfort-mongers were accommodated, as well. A chili contest was taking place inside by the fireplace, where hot coffee, dessert and convivial company warmed spirits. For a mere $5, participants could purchase a handsome souvenir Squam Lake Association ceramic coffee mug and a plastic spoon and put it to use immediately in sampling all of the 12 delectable varieties of locally made chili, from super sweet to venison to jalapeno hot.

This year's chili contest entrants included the Golden Pond Country Store, The Common Man, Holderness General Store, the Manor on Golden Pond, Biederman's Deli, The Six Burner Bistro, the Mad River Tavern, All Out Wildlife, Gourmet to Go, Allstate Mechanical Services, George's Seafood and BBQ, and Jose Locos!

Squam Lake Association Executive Director Chris Devine said that Winterfest is always a popular event. The community outreach event almost always enjoys good snow conditions, good weather and great attendance by local Squam residents and visitors who are coming up to celebrate the long holiday weekend.

He emphasizes that membership in the Squam Lake Association is open to everyone, not just Squam Lake residents or seasonal property owners. Anyone who loves the lake and wants to help preserve the environment is welcome to join the fun.

Devine said that the SLA has enjoyed a tremendous year in 2010. One highlight of the year was the completion of the new Activities Barn on site – a wonderful new facility that is helping to extend youth programming and other activities to more people, especially during inclement weather, when thunder and lighting can curtail lake excursions. Arts and education programs provide opportunities for kids to explore their creativity and learn about the lake, no matter what the weather.

"This was a fantastic project," said Devine. "From the donation of the timber to the contributions of local contractors and craftsmen, it was a real group effort. We are looking forward to having this new resource for youth programs and other activities throughout the upcoming summer season."

Other programs sponsored by the Squam Lake Association include ongoing water quality monitoring efforts, an active "weed watcher" program, invasive aquatic plant harvesting to protect the lake from further infestation from milfoil and other aggressive non-native species, and a host of efforts to protect the environment in the Squam watershed.

The SLA is always looking for volunteers for its trail maintenance programs along the 50 miles of scenic hiking trails throughout the surrounding mountains, hillsides and conservation areas.

Devine says that the SLA is partnering with Plymouth State University and UNH in ongoing efforts to assess and improve the recreational opportunities and protect the environment for the benefit of the public, to balance competing uses and identify areas that need greater management or additional resources to protect the public interest.

"We don't want to love the lake to death," remarked Devine. "Making the best use of our precious resources in a way that is supportable and sustainable is our duty, so that we can preserve the environment for future generations."

Learn more about the Squam Lake Association by visiting the Web site at www.squamlakes.org, visiting the office Monday – Friday at 534 Route 3 in Holderness, or calling at 968-7336.

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