A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Flying to Mascoma Lake and Lake Sunapee

February 14, 2021
Emilie Phillips

Harrisville Pond and Mascoma Lake

Mascoma Lake

Tyson says he is too busy to write his own post about flying to Mascoma Lake on Saturday, so I’m combining it with my flight to Lake Sunapee on Sunday. On Saturday, while I was out cross country skiing, Tyson and Isaac tried to meet up with other folks for some flying. One group said they were going to Alton Bay for breakfast and then Mascoma Lake near Lebanon for lunch. The Alton Bay ice runway just opened. The advantage of going to Alton is that they plow and check the ice depth is at least 12″. The disadvantage is that it’s getting so busy they had to add extra rules this year to keep planes from crashing into each other. Tyson opted to skip the breakfast, and was very glad he did so given all the pilots he heard on the radio headed for Alton Bay.

Peter and Isaac on Harrisville Pond

Instead, Tyson stopped off at a friend’s place on Harrisville Pond. Peter reported that the ice fishermen said the ice was 12 inches thick. The next stop was Mascoma Lake. Tyson had never landed at Mascoma before, so he circled overhead looking for thin spots, bob houses, man made piles of snow, or anything else that could get in the way. Where he landed, the fishers said the ice was 16 inches deep. Between the plane and shore, though, Tyson found a thin spot at the outflow and sank in up to his knee. Good thing he had several layers of shell pants on so he stayed mostly dry.

The rest of the flying group never made it to Mascoma Lake. They dallied at Alton Bay, and then flew straight home.

Otter Pond and Lake Sunapee

Sunday, I wanted my turn at ski flying. I picked up on a thread Tyson had started the day before with Ryan and Laura who recently bought a place on the Eagles Nest airstrip in New London NH.

Isaac and Emilie at Eagles Nest with Mt Kearsarge in the background.

Eagles Nest was a good first spot to land. It’s long, it’s wide, it’s an easy runway in the summer. There aren’t enough active pilots there to bother plowing in the winter, so it’s an unobstructed ski landing. The only mistake I made was landing too early on the runway and then having to taxi under lots of power up to Ryan and Laura’s place. The Bearhawk doesn’t like breaking trail any more than most cross country skiers.

Ryan and Laura showed off their new place. It’s quite eclectic, but has great views down the runway to Mt Kearsarge. Meanwhile Isaac and their daughter Vivian sledded together and chased each other around. In addition to flying airplanes, they are just getting into backcountry skiing, so we might try to put together some fun skiing and flying trips with them.

Since Ryan and Laura just moved to the area, they didn’t know which local lakes are suitable for winter landings. They hadn’t been seeing trucks on the lakes, which is the usual indication pilots use to determine the ice is thick enough. Everyone seems to have switched to fat tired ATVs. We both took off and circled the local lakes.

Checking ice depth on Otter Pond

Lake Sunapee is large and deep, so it would have thinner ice than a smaller lake. Little Sunapee north of the highway didn’t have any snowmobile or ATV tracks on it. Otter Pond had a reasonable number of snowmobile tracks, looked plenty large enough to land on, and it was not swampy. So we picked that. I circled once to check for obstacles and then landed. It was a good easy test landing. Ryan landed first in their Super Cub. He drilled a hole in the ice with his auger and measured 16″ deep.

Next we flew over to Little Sunapee, but on short final, Ryan realized on short final that the only tracks on the lake were cross country ski tracks. Was this a no motorized vehicles lake? We decided to skip it and go straight to Lake Sunapee. Most of Lake Sunapee was white. Every half mile or so a jagged darker line crossed from west to east. They might be thinner cracks, or Tyson said, they might be pressure ridges. Either way we wanted to avoid them. Ryan picked a landing area near the Loon Island Lighthouse. We landed to the west, easily avoiding the cracks/ridges. We parked over at the light house for photos. Several snowmobilers drover over to get their own photos. The local fish and game official even came over to check out the planes. We asked him about Little Sunapee, but that was outside his jurisdiction. Ryan checked the ice again — 12 inches this time. Then it was time for us all to head home.

Isaac and Vivie. Photo by Laura Bryer

The lakes are a nice way to resume ski flying. There’s lots of room, so I don’t have to worry when the plane makes wide turns as the skis slide sideways. Nor do I have to worry about the absence of brakes. The only concern would be getting stuck in thick snow, and I managed to avoid that.

I looked up the regulations for lakes in NH. I couldn’t find anything special about Little Sunapee. Jet skis aren’t permitted, but that’s not unusual for a smaller lake. NH lake restrictions page.

One of our other concerns was the depth of the lakes and how that affected ice thickness. The NH state fish and game has maps of lake depths. I had forgotten until I went looking for the restrictions. Almost everywhere we landed was 10 to 20 feet deep. Lake Sunapee was the exception at 6 feet deep where we landed. Depth maps of selected NH lakes and ponds.

Photos from Saturday

Photos from Sunday

GPS track from Sunday