As the region sinks deeper into another winter season, the local weather patterns have been excellent for making ice, but rather spotty when it comes to providing for snow.
It is now the third consecutive year with no snowmobiles traveling along the railroad tracks in back of my yard. I'm not complaining, lamenting nor championing the situation. It's just a simple observation of fact. However, I do wish there was enough snow on the tracks to allow for some cross-country skiing.
Snow depths around the region earlier this week varied from a light covering of powder over a meager base, all the way to a few feet or more of cover in the upper elevations. There is barely a base anywhere, which makes it difficult to find adequate cover for a truly extended tour.
A lone ski track trails off across the ice cover on St. Regis Pond.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
Curlers take advantage of the thick ice on Moody Pond in Saranac Lake.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
Fortunately, there are a few unique options that include ski and skate combo trips that take travelers over both land and lake ice. Just strap on a pair of metal edged skis, and toss a pair of ice skates in the pack and you can be off for a full day of fun and isolation.
With the annual Saranac Lake Winter Carnival in full swing, the village of Lake Placid is currently gearing up to welcome athletes and their families who will be traveling north to participate in the annual Empire State Winter Games.
The Empire State Games have long provided a proving ground for aspiring Olympians, and there will be a large contingent of former ESG athletes competing in Sochi the following week at the XXII Winter Games.
This year, the Empire State Winter Games have expanded to Tupper Lake. Events will also be hosted in Saranac Lake, Paul Smiths, Lake Placid and Wilmington.
Considering the inclusion of competitive ice climbing as a demonstration sport at the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympic Games, it may be time to consider adding a few new events to the Empire State Games as well. Competitive ice climbing would certainly be an interesting choice.
And now that the North Elba Park District crew has been able to maintain a plowed ice skating loop that circumnavigates Mirror Lake, it may be time to consider hosting an all natural ice speedskating marathon as a component of the Empire State Games.
To date, it has been excellent year for skating on many local waters, including the Cascade Lakes, Chapel Pond and even Lake Placid. The conditions have been excellent with just a light snow cover atop thick, smooth ice, and no slush.
On Lake Champlain, free skaters have been enjoying one of the best years in recent memory on thick ice - from Westport all the way to Crown Point and beyond.
It has also been an excellent year to enjoy ski and skate combo trips through the historic Seven Carries route that traverses the St. Regis Canoe Area, or through the ponds in the Floowood/Fish Creek area.
The traditional route of the Seven Carries spans from the landing on Upper St. Regis Lake to Little Clear Pond in Saranac Inn. It also provides numerous side trips such as the Fish Pond Truck Trail and the old log roads that stretch from Little Clear Pond to Grass Pond, Meadow Pond, St. Germain Pond and all the way to the Lake Clear beach.
One of the real joys of covering the Carries during the winter season is the obvious lack of human traffic, and the abundance of wildlife tracks and traffic. The fresh snow cover illustrates the coming and goings of otter, muskrat, deer, coyote and more, and the setting always seems so desolate as compared to the usual trails.
So far this season, there has been adequate snow cover for skiing through the Carries, but not so much that it inhibits skating across the ponds.
Despite the lack of adequate snow cover in the Lake Placid area, there have been excellent conditions for cross-country skiing enthusiasts in Newcomb on the road into Camp Santanoni, as well as on the side road into Moose Pond. The side road is usually a safe bet for fresh powder, as it is always lightly traveled.
Good snow cover can currently be found along the Hays Brook Truck Trail located just north of Paul Smiths on a route that leads skiers to lean-tos at both Grass Pond and the Sheep Meadows.
There is also good cover on the trails leading off the Slush Pond Road, which are located on the western side of state Route 30 directly across from the access road that leads into the Hays Brook Horse Assembly Area trails.