Warm Weather Keeps Alton Bay’s Ice Runway Closed This Season | New Hampshire Public Radio

Warm Weather Keeps Alton Bay’s Ice Runway Closed This Season

Feb 18, 2020

Paul LaRochelle posts Facebook videos on the conditions of the ice on Alton Bay every few days.
Credit Paul LaRochelle (screenshot)

Alton Bay's famous ice runway will stay closed this winter due to unsafe ice conditions.

Paul LaRochelle is the state official in charge of the seasonal runway on Lake Winnipesaukee – the only one in the Lower 48 states.

He says the ice around the runway needs to be 12 inches thick to support maintenance vehicles and hundreds of aircraft.

This year, LaRochelle says warm weather has made the ice inconsistent – so he's keeping the runway closed.

"A lot of people say, ‘oh, they could have opened, it was cold this week and last week.’ It takes more than that,” he says. “It takes more than a few cold nights. It takes weeks for it to be a good thick safe ice."

He says the closure is in the name of “safety first.”

No full-scale vehicles should traverse the lake this season, he says, and snowmobilers and ice fishers should also use extreme caution.

The runway was also closed in 2016 and 2011, which LaRochelle says is as far back as his records go.

He doesn’t believe the closures are part of a long-term trend. It’s easy, he says, for localized weather conditions to create poor ice.

On the whole, scientists say New Hampshire winters are getting milder and less consistent as the climate changes.