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Weather brings out the youngster in the best of us

February 20, 2010
By Joe Hackett, Enterprise Outdoors Columnist

After enjoying yet another week of outstanding winter weather, I'm left wondering when it's ever going to end. The region has certainly been blessed with some amazing snow and ice conditions this season and the past week was one of the best - or worst - depending on the perspective.

Across the country, winter storms plagued the nation and for the first time in our nation's history, snow conditions were reported on the ground in nearly every state in the country, with the exception of Hawaii. Global warming non-believers were overjoyed with the freakish weather, which they insist offers further evidence that climate change is simply a hoax.

Unfortunately, the snowstorms didn't hit Vancouver, which is experiencing a snow-challenged winter. I've been spending most evenings watching the local contingent compete in Vancouver Olympics, while my days have been occupied outdoors with skiing, skating, curling and more.

Article Photos

Houston Weeden picks up speed on Lower Cascade Lake using the author’s homemade parachute-ice sledding concoction.
(Photo by Joe Hackett)

While viewing Olympic competitions, the tremendous opportunities offered by our numerous local sports developmental programs is glaringly apparent. Where else in the world can such relatively small, isolated, communities as Saranac Lake and Lake Placid provide so many world-class athletes?

Regardless of their overall Olympic sporting accomplishments, our local athletes offer a testament to the quality of life in a rural community and of their own personal resolve in achieving goals that others can only dream of.

Their achievements will surely serve to inspire the same spirit of accomplishment among our next generation of local winter athletes. It is a sporting legacy that always makes the Winter Olympics seem like a local competition, regardless of their worldwide location.

On a wing and a prayer

Over the past weekend, I took the opportunity to test an experimental winter sporting contraption on the slick, black ice of the Cascade Lakes.

With the assistance of a brave young test pilot, we attempted to combine the energy of the fierce winter winds with the maneuverability of a steel runner sled to create a potential new winter sport that can best be described as "short track, wind-powered, Flexible Flyer, drag-sledding."

As wind speeds approached 30 mph in the natural wind tunnel of the Cascade Pass, I secured a helmet on my young friend, Houston Weeden, and he settled comfortably into the cockpit of the old, Flexible Flyer sled. The sled had been retrofitted with protective padding and featured a 6-foot parachute for a sail.

We decided to launch the experimental craft from the midpoint of the Lower Cascade Lake, which offered a seemingly safe, fast and snow-free route. From the nearby roadside parking lot, his Aunt Elizabeth could watch the entire episode from the car.

As I prepped the gear, I was uncertain which one of us was the most nervous.

With a howling wind at his back, Houston released the parachute's envelope and the small sled took off like a rocket. Skating hard, I followed in hot pursuit with scant hope of catching up to him.

Hanging on for dear life, Houston blazed across the smooth ice and quickly sailed off into the distance. Fortunately for all concerned, he survived the experiment and rode the strange craft to the end of the lake safely. When I finally arrived, he was wearing a wide smile and couldn't wait to repeat the feat.

Back up the lake we traveled to repeat the excitement with a half-dozen more trips. Soon, the winter winds had the best of us and we retreated to the warm confines of a heated car.

Although "short track, drag-sledding" will never replace such long-established sliding sports as luge or bobsled, it certainly was fun to watch. The entire process, from experimentation to acceleration to final exhilaration also served to restore a small element of a kid that I often find is still trapped inside of me. I think the same spirit resides in many adults and, for some odd reason, the winter weather always feels a bit warmer when it is considered from a youngster's perspective.

The outdoor calendar:

Although spring is officially just a few weeks distant, in the Adirondacks winter weather tends to linger a while. For many, the end of winter arrives with the first ice-out when the ponds can again be accessed via canoe, with a rod and reel in hand. Among the sporting community, it has long been considered poor etiquette to relinquish the ski poles before it's time to exchange it for a fishing pole.

In an attempt to sooth this annual craving for an abrupt change of seasons, Jones Outfitters has again partnered with the Tri-Lakes Chapter of Trout Unlimited to bring The Fly Fishing Film Tour back to town.

The Fly Fishing Film Tour is an evening of film, fun and camaraderie that focuses on active angling adventures, with a mix of excitement, humor and the "trout bum" lifestyle. It will take you on a journey to see what it takes to be truly committed, or insane, by those who capture the new revolution of fly fishing adventures on film.

With 70 cities on the tour's schedule this winter, the 2010 Film Tour will be in town March 13 at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Doors will open at 6:00pm and the show will start promptly at 7 p.m.

Ticket prices are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Jones Outfitters in Lake Placid (523-3468) or online at Proceeds from the event will benefit conservation efforts of the Tri-Lakes Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Ausable River Association.

Wild Turkey Federation

For area residents who prefer to talk turkey rather than trout during the early spring, the recently minted Adirondack Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be hosting it's inaugural banquet on March 21 from 3 to 7 the Crowne Plaza in Lake Placid.

With a variety of speakers, a gear auction and a raffle featuring seven new firearms, the event will provide an interesting launch for a new chapter of this venerable, sporting advocacy group. Whether you are a turkey hunter or not, I would encourage area sportsmen and women to attend the banquet and support this fine organization.

For banquet tickets, please contact Bill Moore at NWTF-ADK@hotmail.comor call 523-3742.

Backcountry Skifest

For ski enthusiasts that just can't get enough of the Adirondack backcountry, the eighth annual Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival returns to Keene Valley for the weekend of March 6-7.

The annual event features a host of experienced guides leading instructional backcountry tours and trips into the High Peaks, in addition to clinics, gear demos and mini clinics on the open slopes of Otis Mountain ski area in New Russia.

On Saturday evening, a dinner and ski movie night will be hosted in Keene Valley after skiing on Saturday. For information and registration visit the The Mountaineer's web site at or call 576-2281.



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