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Tractor falls through Mirror Lake ice

Can-Am pond hockey tournament postponed until end of February

A crew hoists a tractor out of the Mirror Lake ice on Sunday, Jan.. 31, using inflatable pontoons and a makeshift frame. It fell through the ice the day before. (Provided photo — Alex Madden)

LAKE PLACID — Ice at the center of Mirror Lake shattered beneath the weight of a tractor on Saturday, Jan. 30. The driver of the vehicle had enough time to get to safety before the rear end of the tractor went down into the frigid water.

The driver was prepping the ice for a Can-Am pond hockey tournament that was slated to happen this weekend. The tourney has now been postponed until at least the end of the month, largely because of the ice conditions, according to Can-Am Director Eric Chapman.

The rear end of the tractor, which was owned by Taylor Rental, went through the ice on Saturday afternoon. Because it broke through far from the coastline, extracting it wasn’t so simple.

North Elba Park District Manager Butch Martin said Can-Am hired a company out of Malone to help out. The crew secured the tractor on Saturday and returned on Sunday to pull it out of the water.

The crew attached inflatable pontoons to the tractor and hoisted it up using a winch and makeshift wood frame that resembled a giant swing set.

“That’s why I constantly tell people you have to be careful on that lake,” Martin said. “When they question us, it’s discouraging. This was just an unfortunate incident.”

Martin, whose department oversees the town’s toboggan chute and whose employees have decades of experience with prepping the ice on Mirror Lake, said Tuesday that the thickness of the ice was still under a foot. Normally, the department doesn’t put heavy equipment on the ice until the ice is at least 12 inches thick.

The ice break over the weekend won’t affect the toboggan chute or skating areas by the beach, according to Martin.

“The snow wasn’t welcome,” he said, “but we’re getting it off, so we’ll be ready to go.”

Snow provides an insulating blanket that keeps the ice below from getting thicker.

Hockey tourney

The Can-Am hockey pond tournament has been rescheduled to Feb. 26 to 28, pending reauthorization from the Essex County Health Department and only if the condition of the ice on Mirror Lake is stronger, according to Chapman.

“The integrity of the ice was just in question enough that we weren’t going to put more machinery out there,” Chapman said.

Can-Am has canceled all of its events in Lake Placid since March 13, 2020, when one of its tournaments was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. This weekend would’ve marked Can-Am’s first return to the Olympic Village since the virus was discovered in New York state.

Some locals, upon hearing of the hockey tournament, questioned whether it was safe. Chapman stressed that this tournament is different because it’s outdoors and more spaced out.

Can-Am received approval from the county Health Department to host the event. Chapman said the mayor of Lake Placid and supervisor of the town of North Elba each reviewed the plans for the event and worked with him to make it work.

The number of teams allowed to participate was pared down to 30, about a third of the normal amount of teams, according to Chapman. Can-Am informed all of its players about New York’s travel and safety guidelines and required them all to adhere to those guidelines, Chapman said.

“We thought we came up with a good plan regarding the pandemic,” Chapman said. “We just need the lake to be safe.”