2018 Swirled Into the Adirondack Mountains on the Polar Vortex, and it’s Still Here!

Lake Placid New Year’s Day ski traditions must stand, cold be damned.

Ziggy First Day Ski 2018

Ziggy, the lifestyle hound, enjoyed his birthday ski on New Year’s Day. He turned seven.

The first day of 2018 dawned bitter cold in the Adirondack Mountains — minus 24 to minus 32 degrees, depending on who you listen to. By New Year’s Day, the entire Adirondack region of northern New York had been encased in bitter cold for five days. Like most of the northeast, we’re still stuck; the wind chill, or “feel like,” temperature is forecast to reach minus 46 today and minus 52 tomorrow. In the daytime. This is called Stupid Cold and has no place in anyone’s life. Stupid Cold is like black flies: do we really need ugly, itchy red bites on our skin? Who needs any temperature below minus five degrees? The freeze-hot-water experiment is fun, but only once.

When skiing is available, Stupid Cold can be managed, but only a little bit.

Snow accompanied the recent bitter cold and this created a quandary. When there is skiable snow on the ground, it is difficult for some outdoor recreation enthusiasts to stay indoors and tend the fire with a nice warm mug of Mocha Jo. Hearty souls who venture outside on days like this abide this sage advice from our Norwegian friends, “Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårligeklær.” This means, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” It is a 30-year family tradition to ski on New Year’s Day when we are in residence, so, ski we did.

First Day Ski Tracks 2018

The snow was slow from the cold, but skiing was fun on New Year’s Day.

The resident biologist and I, and other fans of winter, have been skiing despite this cold snap. We survived and you can too if you follow some simple guidelines. Even though I follow all the cold-weather outdoor tips noted below, I get cold very easily, so the last piece of advice is key: I spend short(er) periods of time in the outdoors. That doesn’t mean I don’t go out, I just don’t go for a six-hour backcountry ski excursion. I stick closer than usual to civilization, don’t ski alone, and go inside frequently to warm up.

Adirondack living: how we enjoy outdoor adventures in the bitter cold.

If you love spending time outside despite the cold, here are some tips from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) guidance on outdoor recreation in the extreme cold and wind:

  • Wear items of clothing to cover all skin including:

- Layers of synthetic or wool winter clothing
- Warm socks and winter boots
- Insulated, wind resistant upper and lower outer shell
- Hat and gloves or mittens
- Scarf or ski mask
- Goggles or glasses

  • Hike, snowshoe, and ski on low elevation trails in wooded areas
  • Spend only short periods of time in the outdoors.

Or check out the helpful video below from the NYSDEC.


Many layers, or a thick dog coat, are the order of the day if you want to play outside in the Adirondack cold.

Ziggy JSR First Day Ski 2018

Ziggy and I could barely stand still for our New Year’s Day/Birthday photo.

Bitter cold is not all bad.

Sub-zero temperatures provide many pleasures. Let’s not forget how easy it is to nail the cross-country ski wax when it is cold outside. There is nothing like a kick pocket of polar wax and zero degrees to make climbing a piece of cake. Ascending hills on cross-country skis also warms up the body, and then, you get to eat an extra piece of cake because of all the calories you burned skiing in the cold. Spending time outdoors in the cold fills your senses, you cannot ruminate and worry about the woes of the world when you have to decide if you should stop skiing to blow your nose and risk hypothermia from standing still too long.

Extreme cold also fills an otherwise quiet time of year with odd but interesting sounds. If you’ve ever lived in the woods, you have probably heard what sounds like a rifle shot on an otherwise still night. That unnerving pop is the sound of tree sap as it freezes and then expands and cracks the tree’s bark. Native Americans were so familiar with the sound they named winters months in honor of it: “moon when the trees crack from the cold.” In the Adirondack Mountains, that month must be January because I heard it.

Whiteface Mountain on New Year's Day, 2018.

Whiteface Mountain was best admired from a distance on New Year’s Day, 2018.

The cold is expected to last through this weekend, so be careful if you plan to spend time outdoors. Bundle up and listen for the sound of rifle shots in the night.

And finally, happy New Year from all of us at Adirondack Lifestyle.

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