It is now official. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently confirmed the year of 2012 was indeed the warmest year the United States has experienced since record keeping began in 1884.
With an annual average temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it was nearly four degrees above the average.
In addition, average temperatures throughout the 2011-12 winter were among the warmest on record. The year also ranked as one of the top 15 driest years ever, with more than 30 states suffering through severe drought conditions, which spawned massive wildfires and crop failures throughout the west.
Photo by Joe Hackett
Deer tracks provide evidence of travel and feeding areas, concentrated on a small portion of this local field.
The year ended after Hurricane Sandy, one of the nation's most severe weather events, raked the Northeast with high winds and heavy rains, causing billions of dollars in damage. Other weather-related disasters included tornados, severe thunderstorms and brutal heat.
Based on the U.S. Climate Extremes Index, which is a measure of volatility in temperature and precipitation, 2012 was exceeded only by 1998 in terms of the total number of extreme weather events.
The winter of 2011-12 also proved to be one of the warmest on record in the Northeast, where the lack of snow was most apparent.
Fortunately, the winter of 2012-13 has so far bucked the trend of the previous 11 months, producing cooler temperatures and heavier than normal snowfalls. In fact, the total annual snow accumulation of 2012 was recently surpassed, in just a single weekend's storm.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to enjoy the fresh snow during an afternoon of Nordic skiing in the backcountry. I followed my Nordic adventures up with a great day of skiing on the powdery slopes of a recently revamped ski center near Malone.
Titus Mountain, which has upgraded their base lodge, offers one of the best deals in the region for skiers seeking quiet trails, no lift lines and an interesting and entertaining mix of terrain options that include wide, well-groomed trails for cruising and numerous powdery glades, as well as night skiing and tubing. It offers a wonderful winter experience for the whole family.
Best of all, the price of admission for two, costs about the same as a single ticket at Whiteface. There were plenty of trails, but no crowds and no rush. It is the best ski bargain in the region.
I skied with my daughter for hours, and we never waited in a line for a lift. After a seemingly endless series of top-to-bottom runs, we retreated to the comfortable confines of their newly renovated main lodge to enjoy our sweet soreness.
Mountaineers head to Keen Valley
With the arrival of colder weather, ice flows continue to sprout on the towering cliffs of the Cascades, Pitchoff, Chapel Pond Pass and elsewhere.
Fortunately, the local snowpack grows deeper by the day, just in time for the annual invasion of backcountry skiers and mountaineering enthusiasts gathering in Keene Valley to celebrate the 17th annual Adirondack International Mountainfest over the weekend of January 18-21.
The Mountainfest is a popular charity event hosted by The Mountaineer and Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
It is always an upbeat event with a unique mix of personalities, skills and the warm camaraderie of adventurers celebrating amidst a background of towering peaks, spires of ice and steep, deep powder slopes.
On Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., there will be a wide range of demo gear available for testing at The Adirondack Rock and River Lodge, located on Alstead Hill Road. There will also be a variety of instructional clinics on ice climbing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and avalanche awareness offered over the course of the weekend.
An energetic and enthusiastic mix of travelers, adventurers, local guides and instructors fuel the event. Developed as a charity event, it continues to support many local and regional non-profits. Last year's gathering provided significant contributions to flood relief funds in the towns of Keene and Jay.
As always, it kicks off Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. as the Keene Valley Fire Department and the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery host an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner at the Keene Valley fire hall.
At 8 p.m., Majka Burhardt, recognized as one of the world's finest alpinists, will offer a slideshow at the Keene Central School detailing her recent climbing expeditions.
On Saturday evening, renowned guide and mountaineer Freddie Wilkinson will present "Alpine Dispatches: Mountaineering and Storytelling in the Twenty-First Century." The presentation, which is also hosted at the Keene Central School, kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with a raffle of equipment provided by event sponsors.
Sunday's entertainment will feature the Adirondack's own Ian Osteyee who will present at the Keene Arts Playhouse, located in the Old Methodist Church, on state Route 73 in Keene.
Registration for the event is limited and classes typically fill quickly. Details and registration information is available at www.mountaineer.com/mountainfest.