Officials warn of thin Mirror Lake ice

Fifth latest freeze on record, tied with 1984

Ice on Mirror Lake froze for the second time this season on Monday, Dec. 20, a day before this photo was taken. It tied with 1984 for the fifth latest freeze on record, according to Adirondack Watershed Association officials who monitor the ice. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — It doesn’t look like visitors to this village will be playing on Mirror Lake until after the new year, as the ice is new and not thick enough to safely walk on.

Actually, emergency management officials never claim that ice is safe, according to Greg Hayes, fire driver at the Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department.

“We always consider ice unsafe,” Hayes said.

Brendan Wiltse, a senior research scientist at the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute agrees.

“We always tell people that no ice is safe ice,” he said.

Wiltse and his team monitor the ice thickness on Mirror Lake frequently throughout the winter, gathering data in cooperation with Paul Smith’s College professor Curt Stager. They measure ice on many lakes in the Adirondack Park to better understand climate change.

Wiltse said Mirror Lake initially froze on Dec. 9, melted on Dec. 12, and froze again on Monday, Dec. 20.

That ties 1984 as the fifth latest freeze on record, according to Wiltse.

The reason for monitoring the Mirror Lake ice is because it has one of the longest-running ice records in the state, dating to 1903. The AWI has maintained the Mirror Lake ice record since 2015.

“Mirror Lake is freezing up on average 17 days later than it did in the early 1900s when record keeping began,” Wiltse said, adding that the later freeze is driven by climate change.

That means residents and visitors have fewer days to play on Mirror Lake in the winter. Dog sled rides, cross-country skiing, ice skating and playing hockey are all favorite outdoor recreation activities on the lake. When the weather cooperates, holiday crowds between Christmas and New Year’s Day are attracted to the ice. But that’s not possible this year, and it wasn’t that safe last year, either.

The day after Christmas last year, an unidentified man broke through the Mirror Lake ice a short distance from shore and fell into the water. His fall and self-rescue were captured by an Ausable River Association webcam.

The North Elba Park District operates the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute and clears snow off the ice at the beach for ice skating and hockey each winter, and plows a skating path around the lake when possible, usually opening around the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, sometimes even later. Martin and his staff check the ice daily in the winter, and he checked it earlier this week.

Was the ice safe on Tuesday morning?

“We aren’t even close,” Martin said Tuesday, adding that the Mirror Lake ice was less than an inch thick. “We’re a good two or three weeks away from even being able to walk on it safely. We’ll need at least 4 or 5 inches before we even think about even walking out to clear a skating area, good solid ice.”

The toboggan chute doesn’t open until there’s at least 12 inches of ice on the lake, and the town doesn’t give the OK for ice skating and ice hockey on the lake until there’s at least 6 inches of solid ice, Martin told the News last January.

Residents and visitors interested in the latest Mirror Lake ice report can call the Lake Placid Visitors Bureau at 518-523-2445. Martin gives the visitors bureau regular reports.

“I actually sent my first report in yesterday,” Martin said Tuesday, “and I will probably send another one in Wednesday and then another one in Friday. Then after Friday, it will be pretty much every day.”

If visitors want to skate in Lake Placid during the holiday week, they can check out public skating times at the Olympic Center (https://lakeplacidlegacysites.com). The 1932 Rink in the Jack Shea Arena opened on Dec. 3. And the Olympic Speedskating Oval opened on Thursday, Dec. 23.

“The mighty oval is open, and you don’t fall through that,” Martin said.

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