Friday, February 9, 2024

Miracle Ice

Steps of Olympic Center in winter

Ice that melts ice

The new refrigeration system at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid hums away throughout the winter, cooling three indoor rinks and the massive outdoor skating oval.

Upgraded in 2021 for $11.5 million, the improved system does something visitors to the Olympic rinks may not realize: It helps keep the sidewalks clear of snow and ice.

The massive compressors generate waste heat as they chill glycol pumped underneath the rinks. That heat is then sent to pipes installed underneath some of the center’s sidewalks outside. That repurposed waste heat helps keep the facility’s walkways clear and dry.

The dividing line between the center’s sidewalks and those managed by the village is obvious as clear pavement gives way to a light dusting of snow.

“As long as these machines are running, I’m generating waste heat,” Eric Martin, who operates the system and manages rink ice conditions, told me on a recent visit.

I was eager to tour the refrigeration system after reading about its secondary use. While difficult to scale, the system demonstrates an innovative — and low salt — way of keeping sidewalks safe.


Ausable River bank

The Ausable River Association this fall completed a restoration project on nearly 3,000 feet of the river along Route 9N in Jay. Photo by Zachary Matson.

A model for climate resiliency

The Ausable River earned a special mention in New York’s new Climate Impacts Assessment thanks to the ongoing restoration work led by the Ausable River Association.

The report highlighted the organization and its partnerships with local communities and state and federal agencies as a potential model for watershed management in other rural areas.

Small communities like those along Adirondack waterways may not have the staffing, expertise or funding to undertake resiliency projects to help protect vulnerable areas in the face of changing weather patterns.

“In addition to limited staff and lack of specialized expertise, they may struggle to access climate adaptation and resilience funding from government agencies, or not be aware of such funding opportunities,” according to the report.

Citing AsRA as an example, the report notes that smaller governments can benefit from working with a nonprofit that “can handle bureaucratic hurdles and solicit additional funds.” Those groups can help facilitate different funding sources, organize watershed-wide plans and focus on nature-based solutions.

The river association is building on its success in Jay and working with Keene, Wilmington and North Elba to plan and develop restoration projects on their sections of the Ausable River.

The climate report also hinted at a forthcoming name change for AsRA. It is expected to be renamed the Ausable Freshwater Center this year.

Photo at top: Waste heat from the Olympic Center refrigeration system is recycled to melt snow and ice from sidewalks. Photo by Mike Lynch.

This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

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