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Road Trip: Landing On Ice

Visit the only charted ice airport in the Lower 48

Road Trip
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How would you like to land on ice? No skiplane required.

Plan a trip early in the year to the Alton Bay ice airport, a seasonal public-use facility on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, at the charted location of the Alton Bay Seaplane Base (B18) in Alton Bay. Volunteers plow and maintain a 2,600-by-100-foot runway, and a parallel taxiway, that opens when conditions permit—and is closed when conditions demand.

The ice airport has operated for more than 30 years. It typically opens sometime in late January, but has opened as early as January 10, says the airport’s volunteer manager, Paul LaRochelle. Ice thickness (at least 12 to 14 inches are needed) and surface conditions determine the opening date. The runway has to close by March 15, but the season will end earlier if conditions deteriorate; a warm day creating slush, a snowfall that can’t be plowed, too rough a surface, or cracks in the ice all can close the runway.

Most pilots drop in for a bite to eat. Four restaurants are open within walking distance: Amilyne’s Corner Market and the Olde Bay Diner serve breakfast and lunch, while J.P. China and Shibley’s at the Pier—closest to the aircraft parking area—are open for lunch and dinner.

Why you should go: Get a free certificate for landing on the ice at Alton Bay at Facet Jewelers in town. B18 baseball caps are available for purchase.

Mike Collins
Mike Collins
Technical Editor
Mike Collins, AOPA technical editor and director of business development, died at age 59 on February 25, 2021. He was an integral part of the AOPA Media team for nearly 30 years, and held many key editorial roles at AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, and AOPA Online. He was a gifted writer, editor, photographer, audio storyteller, and videographer, and was an instrument-rated pilot and drone pilot.

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