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Skating Far And Fast On Lake Morey

Visit a local pond or ice rink, and you're most likely to see figure skates or hockey skates carving the ice.

But people who want to skate far and fast over open ice on frozen lakes have another option: Nordic skates. Imagine cross-country ski boots fitted with long blades and detached heels, and you’ll get the idea.

VPR's Charlotte Albright visited Lake Morey, in Fairlee, where a four-mile path is cleared in the ice for Nordic skaters. During a skate-a-thon hosted by the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, experienced Nordic skaters and newbies alike circled the giant loop.

"The last time I skated, I probably was 14 years old," said John Cukwa, from Chelmsford, Mass. "So, it's been more than 50 years since I've skated. So I'm going to give it the old college try here."

"Good luck, honey," his wife said as he pushed off. "Let me take a picture of you."

Nordic skating was popularized here by Jamie Hess, a self-proclaimed "lifelong skating enthusiast" who brought the European style to Lake Morey 15 years ago after a trip to Sweden. 

"I was so overwhelmed by how wonderful the skating was, the frozen lakes, the ice conditions, the people who were just so warm and welcoming and happy to take me on tours all over central Sweden," Hess said. "And then there were the ice skates, which I had never seen before, the Swedish style ice skates."

"This kind of skating, if you have those nice long bladed skates, you can really cruise on them," said Carly Miles. "Hockey skates are more built for turning and swerving, like figure skates."

This is the twelfth year that the Upper Valley Trails Alliance has held the event, according to Executive Director Russell Hirschler. "This is a celebration of winter and ice," he said.

"Many years ago, people in this area ... had a vision of having a groomed skating trail" Hirschler added. "This one here in particular is the longest one in the country — just over four miles."

One group of skaters hailed from states where winter skating doesn't exist. Carter Coe, from Georgia, and Beau and Christine Dixon from North Carolina, are spending their first winter in Vermont. 

"We're just enjoying the local activities," said Christine Dixon. "This is very different to be skating on a pond. It's not something you do in the South."

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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