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Winter at Pemi

As the weather here in the northeast begins to bring hints of spring, the excitement for Pemi 2022 has truly started to ramp up. The warmer temperatures inevitably bring to mind summer days with boys playing basketball on Pemi’s soon-to-be newly renovated basketball courts, roaming camp with binoculars on the hunt for various bird species, hiking through the White Mountains, and so much more. Yet, as anyone who has lived in New England knows, these first signs of spring are typically quickly followed by reminders that winter still lingers. On a day when the air still feels more wintry than summery here, we are going to take a brief look at some of the ways that the winter months have unfolded at Pemi, both this season and historically. This post represents only a small number of the myriad ways that people have spent time at Pemi in the winter. If you have your own stories of winter at Pemi to add, please write in and let us know!

Let it Snow!

One of the defining features of winter at Pemi, as might be expected, is the large amount of snow that can accumulate thanks to the combination of direct snowfall and winds that blow snow across Lower Baker towards Senior Beach. The heavy snow can make Pemi nearly (or completely) inaccessible by vehicle at times. Fred Seebeck, a lifelong Pemi camper, staff member, and current Board member, remembers the difficulty of trying to show Pemi to a classmate and prospective counselor one winter when he was in college. After hitchhiking their way from Providence to Wentworth (a great story in its own right, I’m sure), Fred recalls that, “the [snow] drifts were over our heads in places, and the only accessible spots (without snowshoes) were nearly impossible to reach because of the massive drifts along the Senior waterfront due to the wind coming down the lake.” Jon Fauver, a member of the third generation of Fauver and Reed families who have stewarded and owned Pemi for 115 years, notes that when he was a boy, “the heavy and frequent snows of the 1950s made it possible to climb right up onto some of the roofs.” In fact, as Jon puts it, “it became abundantly clear why so many of the buildings had long poles placed strategically to prevent the snow loads from collapsing roofs.” The massive amounts of snow also allow for some exhilarating experiences. Charlie Malcolm, one of Pemi’s assistant directors, and Fred Seebeck both remember thrilling sled rides from the hill above Intermediate Camp all the way down onto the lake. The snow may make it tough to drive into camp and add stress to buildings, but it certainly allows for a great sled run!

Snow covers the road into Pemi after wind pushes it across Lower Baker Pond, onto the Senior Beach, and across the road.

Fun on Lower Baker

While accessing much of the Pemi grounds can be challenging during winter, Lower Baker Pond often provides a reliable highway in and out of camp once the ice has grown thick enough. Depending on the snow’s depth, walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or skating across Lower Baker serve as some of the best ways to move about camp. As in summer, however, the lake is also a place for both fun and character building. Countless Pemi boys know the challenge of swimming their Distance Swim. This quarter-mile swim, which boys must complete before being allowed to take a sailboat, kayak, or paddle board out during open boating, has been a rite of passage for Pemi boys for decades, and it can be a true sense of accomplishment for a boy to complete his Distance. Fewer boys know how tough it can be to skate the length of Lower Baker on a windy winter day. Jon Fauver and his brother Fred fondly remember the excitement and difficulty of skating on Lower Baker. Fred remembers that they, along with their brother Peter and lifelong friend and fellow Pemi owner Tom Reed, Jr., “would skate up wind to the public beach and then turn down the lake and spread our jackets wide.” Jon adds that those winds, “[made] it almost impossible to skate against.” That return with a jacket-turned-sail propelling you calls to mind running downwind in a sailboat. Any Pemi boy who has done that in the summer knows how quickly you can go with the wind at your back – now imagine that feeling on skates on a freezing yet beautiful day. As Fred puts it, “what a ride!”

Tom Reed Sr. and Al Fauver skiing into Pemi in the winter of 1977

A New Way to See Pemi

In addition to the thrills found in the winter, there’s also the different perspective and beauty compared to a July day at Camp. Thinking about winter at Pemi, Jon Fauver calls to mind, “how different the topography looks and feels in the winter. It all seems flatter and so open.” The leafless trees give a clearer, less interrupted view of the grounds, allowing for a new visual experience. Will Clare, a longtime Pemi camper and staff member (and the older, though certainly not wiser, brother of yours truly) adds that, “visiting Pemi in the winter is a worthwhile experience for anyone with a love of camp. The stillness and calm of the untouched snow on the lake provide a beautiful contrast to the energy of the summer.” Henry Eisenhart, another lifelong camper and counselor, feels that, “[traveling] to Pemi in the wintertime provides an understanding that this beautiful place actually exists year-round. Seeing lifelong friends in such a familiar environment allows for a different Pemi experience, further connecting us all to the place we love and cherish so dearly.” All those who appreciate the beauty of Pemi in the summer will undoubtedly equally marvel at the opportunity to take in the sights on a clear winter’s day. To that end, we look forward to offering many chances in the future for current, alumni, and prospective Pemi families to see Camp in the winter and appreciate this beauty.

Ice blocks being cut for storage to aid in food preservation during the winter of 1936

Winter Work

On top of the thrill and visual splendor of visiting Pemi in the winter, the colder months have also provided unique opportunities for work to be completed throughout Pemi’s history. In the early days of camp, for example, the ice from Lower Baker would be cut out in blocks, insulated, stored, and used throughout the summer. In the years before industrial freezers and refrigerators, these ice blocks would allow for the storage and preservation of food during the summer. While we no longer have to cut into the ice for food storage, we did once again find the need to carve through 18+ inches of ice this winter in order to prepare for the summer. To go along with Pemi’s brand new waterski boat that will debut in June, we spent time this winter precisely replacing the slalom ski course. This process involved using GPS surveying to mark where each anchor and buoy should go, cutting through the ice, and then dropping anchors down into the frigid waters. Head of Building and Grounds Frank Roberts and a team braved the wind and cold, snowmobiled out onto the lake, and completed this task all in a day. Pemi boys will reap the dividends of their efforts this summer when our new boat takes skiers through their paces on this excellent course!

Ice blocks being cut in winter 2022 to allow for the installation of the slalom course

While all of these fond, bone chilling, and exciting memories recall great times during the frozen months of a New Hampshire winter, we can’t wait for the weather to turn decisively towards warmth and summer. As another winter draws to a close, we’re more excited than ever for Pemi 2022 – our 115th summer!

– Pat Clare

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