Welcome Back to the Adirondack Mountains, Winter!

Early-season skiing has been merely decent, now let’s get on with it!
See below for a current conditions report.

Adirondack Lifestyle Winter Solstice 2017

The sun is low in the sky today, but the days will now grow longer.

Adirondack Lifestyle Winter Solstice Shadows 2017

The day with the shortest amount of daylight also yields the longest shadows.

We awoke before dawn today to the low moaning sound of ice expanding on the lake out front. It reminded me of the woman who practices Kulning, the ancient Swedish herding call, except the lake in my story was calling-in Winter Solstice 2017. Unlike Kulning, the sounds from the lake were not human-made, rather the result of plain old science: freezing water and acoustic dispersion. Frozen Adirondack lakes are the noisiest during times of major temperature fluctuations, such as now - it was zero degrees at dawn - because the ice expands and contracts more than during stable temperatures. But I digress; the point is winter is finally  formally here and we now have every right to kvetch if the snow depth doesn’t meet Adirondack outdoor recreation standards.

Noisy frozen lakes are one sign of winter in Lake Placid, but skis and snowboards on cars and the happy smiles on the faces of their drivers is another sure indication it is  winter in the Adirondack Mountains. It has been a decent early ski season. Despite finicky weather - cold and snow and then warm rain - the resident biologist and I have eked out some nice ski days so far. The trails at Mount Van Hoevenberg have been nicely maintained when conditions allow, and the manmade loop is a savior for competitive skiers in training.

When the winter storm missed Lake Placid last week, we traveled 22 miles to the Visitor’s Interpretative Center (VIC) at Paul Smith’s College where we were delighted to find twice the amount of snow that had fallen in the Lake Placid area. The ski trails at the VIC offer rolling terrain and a variety of landscapes. It was wonderful to ski through the deep balsam forest and feel tucked in, out of the wind and bitter windchill. Then, over a bridge, around a marsh and into the hardwoods we skied, on plenty of snow, nary a rock in sight. Speaking of “not any,” we also did not see another skiing soul at the VIC; it is clearly the place to go if you are looking for solitude.

Nordic skiing Paul Smiths VIC 12-2017

This secret Adirondack snow stash is located in the Paul Smiths’ snow belt.

Nordic skiing Lake Placid 12-2017

A tip of the tuque to the talented groomers at Mount Van Hoevenberg!

Last week’s winter storm did not miss Whiteface Mountain where at least a foot of snow fell. The mountain is in good shape. We were greeted by four inches of surprise fresh powder one morning, and the lake-effect snow machine has been running for the last few weeks. Although the area does not get as much lake-effect snow as some central New York spots, the Adirondack region does benefit from the combination of open water in the Great Lakes and cold southwest winds, frequently to the tune of a few inches here and there, but it adds up.

Thanks to superb grooming at Mount Van Hoevenberg, the trails are in remarkably good shape considering the low snow depth. We skied the Porter Mountain racing loops today and it was quite nice with just enough coverage. We were surprised to see much deeper snow on Porter than at the cross-country stadium. Unfortunately, there is no backcountry skiing to speak of. As for backcountry light, the Hays Brook Truck Trail and the Fish Pond Truck Trail are in good shape, but the Jackrabbit Trail at the end of Mountain Lane in Lake Placid is not skiable because the ski trail has been walked on (post-holed) by ice climbers headed to the north face of Pitchoff - the climbing cliffs. The Whiteface Mountain Toll Road is skiable, but as a wise man once said, “It is so crowded, no one goes there anymore.”

The forecast is calling for more snow tomorrow, a wintry mix on Saturday, and more snow in time for Christmas.

Now that winter has officially arrived, let’s hope we will no longer need to discuss rocks and thin snow coverage. Inside my ski mittens, my fingers are crossed, wishing for an old-fashioned Adirondack winter in which the snow falls deep and the temperature stays cold!


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