During last year's ski season, I regularly enjoyed long and lazy ski tours along Scarface Mountain in Ray Brook. Unfortunately, such opportunities have been non-existent this season since snow has been quite sparse to date.
There still hasn't been enough snow for snowmobiles to travel on the railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and what little cover remains has been greatly reduced by the recent rain and warm temperatures.
Despite the dismal conditions, skiers, snowshoers and skaters have been out in force, as are the ice climbers and curlers. Last weekend, curling returned to Moody Pond with the first major competition of the new year.
As expected, the best ski conditions are still to be found on truck trails, including Connery Pond, Fish Pond, Hays Brook, Raquette Falls and Camp Santanoni.
The Paul Smith's College VIC likely has the best local conditions with upwards of a foot of snow. Skiers should note the VIC now requires a trail fee.
With just 20 inches of snow on the stake at Lake Colden, trails leading into the High Peaks still lack adequate cover to support skiing to Avalanche Pass, Mount Marcy or along the Calamity Brook Trail into Colden and Flowed Lands.
The Department of Environmental Conservation's High Peaks advisory indicates cross-country skiing is not recommended until there is additional snow cover. Snowshoes are not currently necessary, nor even recommended, for travel in the lower elevations.
According to recent Adirondack Ski Touring Council reports, the Marcy Dam truck trail is finally skiable, but caution is advised on downhill sections due to a thin base.
For up to date conditions, contact ASTC at 523-1365 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ice is nice
Fortunately, nearly all of the local lakes and ponds are now sporting safe ice. I've received numerous reports of fish being taken, including a monster northern pike that recently established a new record for Lake Champlain. I expect the record will soon be eclipsed due to an abundant population of non-native alewives.
Hardwater anglers are advised to be aware of recent changes in state fishing regulations regarding the use of minnows and bait fish. Unless baitfish are trapped from the waters being fished, anglers must provide proof of purchase from an authorized bait dealer.
Transporting baitfish without a signed and dated receipt from a supplier is illegal. The restrictions are intended to prevent the spread of diseases such as viral hemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) or the unintentional introduction of invasive species such as alewives or round gobi's into local waters.
Recently, there has been some confusion regarding a new DEC angling regulation that permits an angler to fish three rods/lines, in addition to five tip-ups (where permitted).
The recent revision now allows an angler to utilize three jigging rods on waters where ice fishing is permitted, with the exception of Lake Champlain.
The new, "three lines per angler" rule will also apply during the open water season, whether fishing from a boat or from shore. The regulation was a welcome surprise for many local bullheaders.
Risky Business: Children at play
Incrementally, American society has grown ever more cautious in recent years. We have become so sensitized, sanitized and shrink-wrapped by a pervasive fear of the unknown that even the old Boogie Monster now trembles in silence under the bed.
We've required our schools, camps and even those mean old gym teachers to provide our children with a softer, safer and gentler approach to recreation.
We expect the teachers, coaches and phys-ed instructors to exhibit far greater concern for little Johnny's feelings than for his ever-expanding waistline. But it's not fair to Johnny, or the rest of his schoolmates. We aren't all supposed to be equal, which is why we're called individuals.
Is it any wonder that childhood obesity has tripled in recent years? Take a look at the safe parenting agenda, which has injected a greater fear in our children than any of their worst possible nightmares.
A recent British study revealed that modern parents overprotect their kids. Half of all kids have stopped climbing trees, and many aren't even allowed to play tag. Even hide-and-seek has been deemed dangerous. God forbid the child who roves beyond a parent's gaze.
There are also growing concerns that kids haven't learned how to play certain games.
"No one is teaching them," explained Calzet Liburd, a "play program" director in Newark, N.J. "So they're coming up with their own ways based on what they see on TV or what they hear."
I never thought I would see the day when kids would have to be taught to play. Just the notion of it sends a chill up my spine. Is there so much reality today that kids have lost their most precious plaything a hidden tool, called imagination?
Or have parents and administrators replaced free play with rules, regulations and such in order to make all play safe and standard.
In 2009, a group of bureaucrats from the NYS Department of Health publicly identified a number of deadly hazards that posed a potential threat to summer day campers.
Their list of outlawed activities included obvious dangers such as freeze tag, whiffle ball and kickball, as well as classics like Capture the Flag, Steal the Bacon and Red Rover.
Fortunately, before they imposed the regulations common sense trumped bureaucracy, and the apparently dangerous activities were allowed to persist (much to the delight of the kids, I suspect).
And yet the thought process persists in the ever peaceful, non-confrontational, overtly sensitive, competition-free, indecisive, all-inclusive realm of the educational process. Does anybody wonder why today's kids suffer from "rubber backbone syndrome"?
What can be expected when all aspects of competition are removed from traditional competitive activities for fear of offending someone? What do children learn when no scores are allowed in soccer or basketball, no cards exchanged on Valentine's Day and no birthday party invitations are permitted in the school?
What happens to their self-esteem when they are not allowed to take risks due to a preconceived notion of protecting someone's sensitivities? What about our own sensibilities? Who is protecting us?
Children require an opportunity to develop their own method of risk assessment. Unfortunately, the ability to form this assessment is acquired only through trial and error.
Children learn and earn success through their failures. As a child, I chipped a tooth or two, suffered black eyes, skinned my knees and ruined enough clothes and shoes to outfit a small army. In the process, I learned to recognize my own limits, as well as those of my parents.
It's always difficult for parents to see little Johnny strike out with a runner on third or to watch tiny Tina the ballerina flop like a fish out of water while attempting a soubresaut.
However, parents must learn to recognize the true advantage in allowing children to establish their own acceptable limits, and to explore and exercise their distinct personal boundaries.
It is a process that instills both confidence and competence and offers the individual important feedback that helps them to make the determination between a threat and an opportunity.