Frigid weather brings a timeless pastime back to Vashon

By most accounts, Fisher Pond has not fully frozen since 2017.

On Sunday afternoon, three bone-chilling days and nights of frigid temperatures finally paid off when islanders of all ages strapped on skates and ventured out onto a glassy Fisher Pond — a wintertime tradition on Vashon made all the sweeter by the fact that it doesn’t happen every year.

By most accounts, Fisher Pond has not fully frozen since 2017, making the frolics on the ice even more special.

Bundled up in hats, scarves and gloves, and presiding over the proceedings were Gary and Linda Peterson — the unofficial king and queen of ice skating on Vashon, who had brought boxes containing almost 100 pairs of skates in all sizes to the pond, after carefully drilling holes in the ice to measure its thickness and ensure its safety.

Islander Jan Staeli, who over the weekend joyfully re-activated a too-rarely needed Facebook page called “Fisher Pond Skating Club,” was also at the pond, and all smiles as she chatted with the Petersons and strapped on her skates.

“We’re so fortunate to have these fabulous folks keeping the tradition going,” she said.

Long-time island residents, the Petersons brought their children to skate on Fisher Pond decades ago.

And over the past 40 years, on rare occasions when the pond froze, they continued to have adventures on the ice. One year, for instance, they celebrated Gary’s birthday with an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen; anyone who could make it out to where the cake sat in the middle of the pond could have a piece. Another year, snow covered much of the ice, and the Petersons used shovel-like contraptions to create a serpentine path across the pond so that they could skate on Thanksgiving morning.

Delighted by their experiences on Fisher Pond, the Petersons started buying second-hand skates at thrift stores and garage sales years ago, determined to share the joy of skating with as many other people on Vashon as possible.

Even unfrozen, Fisher Pond is a beloved spot on the island.

Vashon’s largest open-water pond, it was once owned by Bill Fisher, who donated the pond and adjacent property to the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust in 1998, shortly before he died. It’s now one of the jewels in the Land Trust’s collection of reserves, a great birding spot and a place many go to walk, drink in the beauty and experience quiet reflection.

And on the rare days it turns into a skating pond, it looks like something out of a Dutch landscape painting from the early 1600s — a reflective surface framed by towering, frozen vegetation and dotted, improbably, with colorfully-clad villagers of all ages reveling in graceful and comic dances over the ice, under the glow of the distant winter sun.

Such was the case on Sunday, as Gary and Linda held court at a picnic table stacked with their boxes of skates, smiling and welcoming skaters, young and old, as they arrived at the pond.

Linda said they’d take all the skates home that night and spread them out to dry on their pool table so they’d be ready for more skating on Monday. That’s what they’ve always done, every time it’s cold enough to skate two days in a row, she said.