Black Ice

text and photos by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbor’s editor Polly Saltonstall


Every so often the stars align to create perfect black ice strong enough for skating — several days of below freezing temperatures, not too much wind (it can create ridges) and no snow. It only happens once every few winters and never lasts long, maybe one or two days before inevitably the ice is ruined by snow or rain. And it’s always a little scary because you have to be sure the ice is thick enough and even then you have to be careful, always carrying ice picks and watching where you glide.


I am an ice skating junkie. I will go out on almost any sort of ice, picking my way through snowy ridges or around high, wind-blown ice bumps. But black ice, well it’s like the most perfect meal you ever ate, the most beautiful sunset you ever saw, maybe even better. It looks liquid, reflecting the sky, the sun, the trees and even me.




We had it here in Camden, Maine, yesterday and today. And tomorrow it will be gone, covered by freezing rain and snow.


My brother, who also is an ice skating nut, is part of a company that makes something called “Kite Wings.” They come in all sizes and recently he has made ones for amateurs like my husband, John and I. He gave us one for Christmas and we tried it out yesterday. Luckily we were wearing our skiing helmets — something I always do when on the ice now — because John fell and hit his head. He’s got a nasty black eye, but is otherwise ok. He wanted to go skating again today — black ice is that way it calls you even when you’re feeling sore — but did the right thing and stayed home resting.

I, however, could not resist that siren call of ice about to disappear and went out for one last solitary set of spins.