Although winter will not officially arrive until Dec. 21, recent weather patterns seem to indicate the season is well underway.
Hunters will be happy to find there's finally an adequate tracking snow in the woods for the last weekend of the big game season.
I expect this season's harvest was adversely affected by the warm weather of November. Deer activity tends to be slow in such conditions and the pronounced lack of snow cover made for difficult hunting conditions during the prime timeframe of the rut.
Iceboating, a very old adventure sport, has been undergoing a resurgence of interest in recent years.
The local woods will likely be very busy this weekend as hunters look for that one last shot before closing up their camps for the year.
While many local ski enthusiasts have been busy enjoying the early snow, the usual early season skiing opportunities on the Whiteface toll road have been somewhat limited this year, due to regular plowing that has been necessary to accommodate ongoing construction efforts on the highway.
Despite such drawbacks, there are some decent early season conditions available at several local ski centers, including Gore, Whiteface and Mount Van Hoevenberg. Nordic skiers have been out on many of the area golf courses, and there's still adequate snow cover at several of the local fire truck trails, including in the Hays Brook, Slush Pond and Fish Pond areas.
While the region is not yet fully in the embrace of winter, it could easily appear with continued cold weather and a few storms blowing in from Lake Ontario.
For the most current snow conditions, contact the local visitors centers in Paul Smiths or Newcomb or visit the Adirondack Backcountry Ski website report at www.adkbcski.com/condition.
Too early for ice fishing
While most of the smaller ponds have skimmed over with an inviting cover of ice, it's still far too early to consider ice fishing on most local waters.
It will require a few weeks of sub-zero nights before any local ice can be considered safe for hardwater enthusiasts. But for those anglers who need an immediate finned fix, there are still several local waters that remain open to angling year-round, including sections of the Saranac, the Ausable and the Boquet.
Wonders of winter
Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can't wait for the cooler weather, the snow, skiing and ice skating, curling up by a fire and toasting to the holiday spirit.
However, many others despise the frigid temperatures, local blizzards and similarly wild weather.
Fortunately, I learned to embrace the season long ago. When you live in a region that remains encased in snow and ice for nearly four months of the year, there's really no other option.
When compared to the other seasons, winter provides for a much wider and more diverse spectrum of recreational opportunities. There are numerous forms and methods of sledding, skiing and skating that can provide a unique freedom of travel. There are few activities that can match the thrill of free skating or ice boating on one of the region's larger lakes.
Similarly, there is always the special thrill of lacing up the skates to play a bit of pond hockey. It's an activity that helps to restore our youth and prove our age.
In recent years, I've spent far more time on the ice with a broom in my hand than a hockey stick. And though curling has increasingly replaced the sports of my youth, I don't think I'll ever give them up. As a youngster it seemed that winter was meant for pond hockey, and there was little time for anything else.
However, I've since learned there are far more "in season" winter pleasures beyond ice fishing or ice boating, backcountry skiing and free skating. There are also the natural pleasures of winter birding and animal tracking, or enjoying the eerie night sounds of coyotes yipping, yapping and yowling in the nearby woods.
Winter night hikes have become one of my newfound pleasures, and I've discovered the unique charm of enjoying the brilliant night skies, combined with the rumbles and moans of lake ice and the common cracks, pops and creaks of the nearby forests.
Cold winter nights provide one of the noisiest, and most interesting outdoor environments of the entire seasonal spectrum. Unfortunately, it seems that very few local residents care to venture out in the cold evening air at this time of year.
Although they would likely enjoy sitting around a campfire late into a summer's eve, very few would ever consider replicating the experience in the dead of winter. Sadly, they'll probably never know what they're missing.