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The winter season rumbles in

December 14, 2016
By JOE HACKETT - Outdoors Columnist ( , Lake Placid News

The rumble of passing snowplows has steadily increased over the last week as a series of snowstorms continued to pass through the region. The rolling thunder of the blades is an annual call that summons outdoor travelers to dust off the gear, locate the long johns and the gloves and wax up the long boards.

It is a safe bet that winter sports enthusiasts will be out in force this weekend in an effort to take advantage of the fresh snow cover.

Although the recent squalls haven't delivered a single crushing blow, the snowpack has been steadily building. In addition to natural snowfall, snowmakers have been able to provide a significant base of snow at the local alpine ski centers.

Article Photos

Winter’s reach is well on its way to settling in, as seen in this photo from the Cascade lakes.
Photo — Joe Hackett

While nordic ski centers generally rely on natural snow cover, there is now an adequate base at most of the local nordic centers and on the trails in the upper elevations.

While I've been taking advantage of nordic skiing opportunities on a local golf course, I've also enjoyed a few days of skiing on the Hays Brook horse trail system and along the bike trails located in and around the Slush Pond Road, just north of Mountain Pond. The snowpack is adequate, and it's likely to grow even more with the potential lake effect snow that's been predicted.

Even if the lake-effect snow doesn't pan out, there are numerous nordic skiing opportunities available in and around Paul Smiths, Meacham Lake, Fish Creek and over Tupper way, where there are a variety of old wood roads that have adequate snow cover.


Stay off the ice

Despite the annual antics of a few "hard water" fanatics, there is no ice that can be considered safe ice at this point in the season.

As a rule of thumb, it generally requires a full week of below zero weather to set up safe ice. Anything less is likely to provide travelers with the experience of being an olive in an extremely, well chilled martini.

Be patient and wait for safe ice to set up. There will be plenty of time to get out, as the local ice cover usually lasts until April or May.

When you do get out, be sure to carry a pair of ice spikes, a throw rope and a personal flotation device. There are no fish species that are worth the risk of a dip in the cold water. Even if you're willing to accept the risk, consider the dangers your actions would pose to the search and rescue crews that would be called upon to employ a rescue or recovery.

While I often write about introducing youth to the outdoors, last week's column seemed to have struck a cord, especially among those who are old enough to remember a time when outdoor recreation was the only recreation that was available.

Most North Country residents had only two channels on the TV, and reception was usually fuzzy unless you knew how to adjust the antenna. Winter was always the longest season - or so it seemed -and recreation required skates, skis, sleds or a SkiDoo, if you were lucky.

It was a different time with different ways. There were no headphones, WiFi or cell phones back then, and often the woods and waters provided the only game in town.

Recreation was found at the local swimming holes, skating rinks or the nearest trout stream. We all had a "hideaway," tree fort or a similar hang out in the local woods. I often wonder if the current generation of youth still enjoy hanging out in such places.

Looking back through the eyes of age, we really had it made. We were't connected to the world wide web. Our telephones were tethered to the house, and we were not. Once we were out of shouting range, we were essentially free.

We spoke with our friends face to face, which proved to be a very effective means of communication. We knew our neighbors, and they knew us. We respected our elders, for fear of a slap in the head if we didn't.

It was a different time, in a familiar place with a slower pace, and we all seemed to like it that way.



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