New Hampshire’s Alton Bay ice airport opened for the 2019 season on Jan. 22. The seasonal, public-use runway on Lake Winnipesaukee, at the charted location of the Alton Bay Seaplane Base in Alton Bay, is believed to be the only charted ice airport in the 48 contiguous United States.
Airport manager Paul LaRochelle announced the runway’s opening on the ice airport’s Facebook page around midday Tuesday. “Good morning everyone!” he wrote. “I’m happy to announce Alton Bay ice Runway is now open. Runway 100 feet wide, 2,730 feet long, taxiway 50 feet wide. Runway conditions are good, a little bumpy in some spots.”
Conditions for this weekend will be uncertain, LaRochelle said Wednesday, because there is rain in the forecast. “We don’t know how much rain we’re going to get,” he said. Right now there’s a little snow on top of the ice, providing good traction. “If that melts and we get rain on top of it, it could be a sheet of ice” offering no traction. LaRochelle reminded pilots to call the airport’s information line, 603-875-3498, for recorded updates on the airport’s status and surface conditions.
The annual Alton Winter Carnival, coordinated by the Alton Business Association, will take place Feb. 17. If flying and runway conditions are good, the airport is sure to be busy. The carnival typically begins at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at the Alton Bay Community Center; activities such as sleigh rides, bed races, snowmobile events, and a chowder festival continue until 3 p.m.
The earliest the runway has ever opened was Jan. 10. In 2016, it never opened at all; temperatures stayed warm and the ice never got thick enough. The runway must close by March 15, but the season will end earlier if surface conditions deteriorate.
Wind usually is from the north, and Runway 1 is the preferred calm-wind runway. On final, watch for snowmobiles and pedestrians. Plan for a long rollout. When the ice looks black or deep blue from above, it’s likely to be slickest; a light covering of snow actually helps. Bring chocks, and boots or water-resistant shoes—there can be pools of water on the surface.
Check notams for Alton Bay Ice Runway before departing. During the season, LaRochelle updates the airport’s information line, 603-875-3498, as needed. Updates also can be found online on the airport’s Facebook page. Notams are primary, however; if the runway must be closed temporarily, a notam will be issued before the recording is updated.
If you fly in, stop at Facet Jewelers—at Shoppes on the Bay—and LaRochelle’s wife, Donna, will give you a free certificate for landing on the ice runway at Alton Bay. Alton Bay Ice Runway hats are available for purchase, and several restaurants are within walking distance. Donations toward the maintenance of the ice runway also are accepted. For more information on the Alton Bay ice airport, see “The Iceway is Open,” from the January 2010 AOPA Pilot.