Engaging in winter sports is about more than just the activities – it’s about the connections, the community, the friends and the conversations.

I’ve come to realize that finding enjoyable outdoor activities can truly transform the long and sometimes isolating season into something fun. Skiing at Sugarloaf in past years brought me joy, but there’s also a unique kind of fun to be found nearby on our ponds and rivers. This year, I enthusiastically embraced another successful skating venture on the Royal River during a brief period of cold weather that transformed it into a frozen wonderland.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth and can be contacted at noriftin@gmail.com.

Being from from Somalia, where winter was an entirely foreign concept, my move to Maine reshaped how I perceive the seasons. Initially, Maine winters seemed daunting, with ice and snow creating a world I was unfamiliar with. Winter sports felt beyond reach. Little did I know that a brave, for me, step onto an ice rink would forever change my relationship with winter. I have found the joy of ice skating in my town of Yarmouth, where the Royal River and small ponds around it freeze over for winter fun.

Skating felt intimidating initially, but the community at Blake Skating Pond in Yarmouth, which you can easily see as you drive on Route 1, motivated me to keep going. Watching community members gather, peacefully glide and provide a hand to those who need one inspired me and soon enough, I happily joined the crowd.

Ice skating has become a symbol of my deepening connection with Maine’s winters and Mainers. Now, like most Mainers who appreciate winter sports, I eagerly check the weather. Each glance at the forecast isn’t just about temperatures; it’s a hopeful anticipation of frozen ponds and the thrilling experience ahead. I also have learned to depend on the expertise of seasoned community members who assess the ice’s thickness and safety, an essential piece of information. The Royal River Conservation Trust makes announcements on Instagram, and they reassure me that the ice is thick enough for skating.

Many of you likely share the excitement that comes with Maine’s winter, but as a new Mainer, there is another level of excitement to it. I feel a sense of accomplishment. Living thousands of miles away from my family and friends who have never witnessed snow instills an extra layer of pride in embracing the traditions of Maine winters. Even in this relatively warm winter, I seized the opportunities when the ponds and Royal River froze, capturing the magic of ice skating through the lens of my camera – and a friend who saw my video said it looked like I was floating in the air.

In Yarmouth, as in many Maine communities, winters become a canvas for building connections, overcoming challenges and discovering the beauty in shared experiences. I made a few friends by randomly skating on the Royal River for one day. It is a testament to the resilience of communities, especially during a season that demands unity and support.

As I continue to explore the wonders of Maine’s winter, I am reminded that the journey is not just about adapting to a new climate, but also about weaving oneself into the fabric of the community. Ice skating, once a distant concept to me, has become a cherished tradition that unites neighbors, friends and newcomers in the joy of winter. So, whether you’re an immigrant navigating your first Maine winter or a longtime resident rediscovering the magic, the frozen ponds and rivers become not just a skating rink, but a communal stage where the diversity of Maine’s population converges, united in the celebration of winter’s enchanting beauty.

Comments are not available on this story.