Every morning there are tracks in my driveway. Sometimes they’re deer tracks, or the random dog that occasionally wanders through, or like this morning, they’re fox tracks. With only a dusting of snow on the ground, I’m not sure why different animals seem to frequent the driveway, but I almost always stop on my way to work to see who had come through the night before.
I do mean a dusting too. The lack of snow is great for getting things done outside, but obviously horrible for skiing. Last week we got about six inches. I got the plow hooked up to the four-wheeler and, miraculously, got it started. I plowed the snow off the driveway just to practice with the new set up. By Monday afternoon, the only place there was snow was where I had made snowbanks. Good thing I didn’t actually break my finger putting the plow on. It really felt broken when I slammed it. » Continue Reading.
In the northern hardwood forest, climate change is expected to reduce the viability of the maple syrup industry, encourage the spread of wildlife diseases and invasive species, and impact timber resources and the winter sports economy.
Accurately gauging the pace of change in the Adirondacks has been challenging, owing to the relative dearth of long-term local data. Now, a new study published by 21 scientists that reviews 50 years of data from Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire concludes that our current models of climate change don’t account well for surprising real world changes taking place in local forests. » Continue Reading.
The tea kettle is warming up on the stove so I can have the first of many, many cups of tea today. There’s cough drop wrappers strewn about the table and all of my handkerchiefs are in the laundry basket. I hate being sick.
The worst part about this particular cold is that I finally took a day off from work and had to spend it lying on the couch doing nothing. It was a beautiful day yesterday, with the first real snow of the year settling on the ground. Being in a snow belt, I got a few more inches than most people and if there was any possibility of being able to breathe through my nose, I would have loved to go out for my first cross-country ski of the year. » Continue Reading.
I do a lot of backcountry skiing, and so over the years I have collected a half-dozen pairs of skis. Not as many as some skiers, but enough to make some people wonder if I’m obsessed.
Maybe I am, but not about skis. I have far more ski hats. I must own nearly twenty: wool, synthetic, thick, thin, beanies, Peruvian models with ear flaps, balaclavas, you name it.
I didn’t set out to collect hats, but I was always searching for the perfect hat, one that fit right, kept my head warm, and looked good. I now have several that fit the bill, but I’d say my favorite is the Exos Beanie by Outdoor Research. » Continue Reading.
It’s Thanksgiving week, and there’s no snow on the ground. There’ve been some heavy frosts, and I’ve had to scrape my windshield most days in the last week. Right now there’s a heavy frost covering the apple trees and the sun is coming up over Whiteface. I really wish my camera battery was charged.
When I was growing up, I had a running bet with my grandfather that there would be snow on the ground Thanksgiving morning. We always hosted dinner, sometimes with more than twenty people, but Grandpa would always walk in and give me five bucks and not say anything to me. I would grin and pocket the money, happy in my ability to predict the weather. Of course, most years, there was already snow on the ground before Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that I had a pretty good streak of winning that bet. » Continue Reading.
The near total lack of snow this year has been a disappointment to skiers that enjoy early season outings and big game hunters that like several inches of powder for tracking the movement of deer. For several members of our wildlife community, a forest floor that remains free of snow into the latter part of November becomes problematic, as a dark background contrasts with their newly developed coat of pure white fur.
Among the creatures that change color in autumn as part of a survival strategy is a small, yet especially fierce predator – the short-tailed weasel, better known to trappers and backwoods sportsmen as the ermine. » Continue Reading.
There’s snow flying around in the air. It’s been snowing on and off all day, with some sticking to my car this morning, but there’s none on the ground. I noticed the slightly silvery coloring of the pines and hemlocks from snow sticking to the branches, though. I’m glad it’s not sticking on the ground yet, but it won’t be long, and even though it’s been cold, we’ve been lucky that the snow didn’t start flying a week or two ago.
They say that this is the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, which at the cabin turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. We had a wind storm last winter where I could hear trees coming down with a fair amount of regularity, but this past Monday night didn’t add up to much. There was one branch down on my road, so it turned out I didn’t need to bring my chainsaw with me. But I guess it’s good that I was prepared to cut my road clear to get to work. Or maybe it’s not good. I don’t know. » Continue Reading.
Blending meteorological history with the history of scientific cartography, Lake Effect: Tales of Large Lakes, Arctic Winds, and Recurrent Snows by Mark Monmonier (Syracuse University Press, 2012) charts the phenomenon of lake-effect snow and explores the societal impacts of extreme weather. Along the way, he introduces readers to natural philosophers who gradually identified this distinctive weather pattern, to tales of communities adapting to notoriously disruptive storms, and to some of the snowiest regions of the country.
Characterized by intense snowfalls lasting from a couple of minutes to several days, lake-effect snow is deposited by narrow bands of clouds formed when cold, dry arctic air passes over a large, relatively warm inland lake. With perhaps only half the water content of regular snow, lake snow is typically light, fluffy, and relatively easy to shovel. Intriguing stories of lake effect’s quirky behavior and diverse impacts include widespread ignorance of the phenomenon in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since then a network of systematic observers have collected several decades of data worth mapping, and reliable short term predictions based on satellites, Doppler radar, and computer models are now available. » Continue Reading.
Last Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center, the long range weather forecasting division of the National Weather Service, made its prediction for this coming winter with a rather unusual statement.
The El Niño event that had started to slowly develop and was expected to strengthen and influence weather patterns across our continent, suddenly vanished. (El Niño is a cyclical warming of the surface water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean and helps to establish a broad area of high pressure over this equatorial region which can greatly impact weather patterns over the U.S., especially in the northeast.) » Continue Reading.
With the premiere of the latest PBS series by filmmaker Ken Burns entitled The Dust bowl on November 18-19, WPBS is working on a documentary chronicling Northern New York and Eastern Ontario’s local weather disasters.
The documentary’s producers are reaching out to local communities to gather first-hand accounts from individuals and families who experienced these major events in local history. WPBS is asking for folks to share any pictures, videos, or testimonies of the experience of the community in any of the following disasters: The Blizzard of ‘77, the Microburst of ‘95 and the Ice Storm of ‘98. » Continue Reading.
The lowest point of Lost Brook Tract is about 3,300 feet above sea level. From there it rises along a steep ridge to a summit which tops out at 3,631 feet according to the United States Geological Survey which recently approved our proposal to formally name it. I have previously written about my exploration of the land leading to the summit and of eventually cutting a modest trail to it from the low point of our land where the lean-to is located.
The trail I created winds along and across the glacial ridges that define our land, past outcroppings and rills and mossy glades to a flat rock protruding out from the top of the headwall. This spot has a jaw-dropping sixty mile vista we have named Amy’s Lookout. It is a few dozen feet below the true summit. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Kirsten L. Goranowski, a 2012 graduate of Paul Smith’s College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. This is part of our series of essays by young people from Paul Smith’s College.
It was a rainy wait for the Face Lift chairlift at the base of Whiteface Mountain on March 9th. I overheard a woman complain to her husband about the unpleasant weather. There was mention of an alternative plan for the day. I myself contemplated an alternative, yet I had bought a season pass and still had to get my money’s worth. Winter of 2010-2011 was the first time I picked up the sport of snowboarding, and I’m now questioning whether any of it was a worthwhile investment. » Continue Reading.
The mild temperatures and limited snowfall that the Adirondacks have experienced this winter season have failed to establish the usual snowpack that blankets the region by this time of year. While a substantial covering of snow provides numerous recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, it also serves as an essential fresh water reserve to supply the many brooks, streams and rivers across the Park with water when spring arrives during March and April. With the first few thaws of late winter and early spring, much of the water produced from melting snow flows over the surface of the still frozen ground. This water quickly moves down hillsides and creates small, seasonal water courses on the forest floor. As these tiny tributaries merge and empty into larger, more permanent streams, the level of the water increases, along with the strength of the current. » Continue Reading.
Mother Nature has handed us a smorgasbord of weather so far this winter, with wildly fluctuating temperatures and at least 14 types of precipitation. We haven’t got a contract with her; and I am confident that the usual blanket of snow will arrive just a little bit later than expected this year.
Of course, I’m no meteorologist; maybe it won’t. I’m not going to talk about climate change. It’s a fact; and though it might not completely eradicate what we now consider typical winter recreation in the Adirondacks for decades, these weather fluctuations WILL be a factor from now on.
As a tourism-dependent region, it is incumbent upon us to be flexible. In addition to having a wardrobe that consists of a variety of different weight jackets, business owners need to be nimble enough to switch modes quickly with respect to marketing.
My office has put this to the test.
I’ve had a “snow alert” email queued up for distribution for a couple of months now. It’s still there waiting for the moment we hear about that predicted nor’easter.
In promoting winter to the leisure travel market, our content and marketing strategy includes a schedule of prioritized topics and keywords for inclusion in emails, blogs, SEO releases and more. For winter, these topics include snowshoeing, alpine and nordic skiing, pond hockey, skating, tobogganing and other ways to play in the snow and ice throughout the region.
But this winter, we’ve had to adjust that schedule. Our original timeline called for a switch from highlighting alpine skiing in December to cross country/backcountry skiing in January. Due to the lack of snow on the backcountry AND groomed trails, we reverted to highlighting the promotion of alpine skiing again this month, as Whiteface Mountain was up and running, primarily with man-made snow.
Content changed on all fronts. Instead of writing a blog about snowshoeing, I recently wrote about the virtues of ice, and adventures in hiking with microspikes for these conditions.
This was prompted by conversations that I had with a couple of our local licensed guides. They reported to me that they had convinced some of their backcountry ski and snowshoe clients to keep their reservations, and have taken them out with microspikes or crampons for the icy trails. Flexibility saved the day; not to mention their projected income for the week.
If I had submitted an editorial (or advertorial) about snowshoeing to a print publication for distribution in January or February this winter, there would be no recourse. Inspired by the article, the potential visitor would inevitably be disappointed to learn upon further investigation that there isn’t enough snow. Instead, I have in my arsenal a toolbox full of flexible tools such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to nimbly post updated photos, to promote events and to monitor and respond to inquiries.
Over 90 percent of all travel research is conducted online. And now, social networks like Twitter and Facebook are filled with on site, in-person, real-time accounts from people who are already in the destinations that are being researched. With the prevalence of smart phone use, potential visitors are able to check the current weather in Colorado while walking down the streets of New York City. If there’s no snow, savvy travelers will know. Why not provide them with incentive to visit anyway?
Fortunately, the product that we have to offer, whether direct or indirect, serves as a very popular backdrop. We know that the primary driver of visitation to the region is the unique mix of mountains, lakes and rivers that comprise the Adirondacks, and the outdoor recreational activities that they offer.
If Mother Nature has taught us anything this winter, it is that there is an increased need for creativity and flexibility. If you can’t go snowshoeing, hike with crampons. If your customers are looking for a weekend getaway in the Adirondacks, offer them a creative experience they can’t resist, (and market it online, where they will find it!)
Kimberly Rielly is the director of communications for the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism
“Is our climate changing? This is a question heard often these days. Some are inclined to believe it is, but others are inclined to believe it is just one of those unusual open winters. The weather has been so mild that pussy willows are showing buds, woodchucks are out, and caterpillars were found crawling on the ground.” Those aren’t my words. They’re from the Norwood News, January 20, 1932.
On my way to the mailbox four times in the past week, I stepped between different types of insects on the sidewalk, a reminder of how unusual our weather has been. While reading about years past, it struck me how this mild winter parallels those of 1932 and 1933. In both instances, ice fishing was drastically curtailed by the open waters of Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. Fishermen were successful back then by using motorboats from Whitehall to Rouses Point, in the dead of winter, to access the best fishing spots.
Temperatures were often in the 50s, pleasant for sure, but not so much for business. Logging, a mainstay of the region’s economy, was months behind schedule. Even when brief cold snaps allowed construction of the required ice roads, balmy weather quickly turned them to slush and mud. Cut timber, ready to haul, lay in the woods until cold weather returned, which wasn’t often.
It was feared the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid would be cancelled due to a lack of snow: January’s temperatures averaged nearly 13 degrees above normal. At one point, the entire bobrun was washed out by heavy rain. Snow was hauled in by train to ensure the games would be held. A storm just days before the opening ceremonies helped, but warm temperatures caused problems throughout the Games.
In 1932 and 1933, events normally associated with summer occurred throughout the winter, grabbing everyone’s attention. In January: outdoor picnics; bicycling; ducks and geese flying north; the picking of wildflowers; and, in Whitehall, using the village street-sprinkler to suppress road dust.
In February: fishing from rafts at Port Henry; boating on Lake George and Lake Champlain; woodchucks, chipmunks, and other mammals out and about; blackbirds, robins, and other songbirds sighted regularly; and snakes (some of them hit by cars) seen on area roadways.
Both months saw golfers on area courses, interrupted only by occasional cold―and thunderstorms! Baseball players couldn’t resist the opportunity to play, although the effort was often better characterized as mudball. Still, in most any year, even playing catch in winter wasn’t even a consideration.
Experience tells us we’ll still get slammed this season, but just as folks did back then, we can marvel for now at how far into the new year the weather has remained so warm. It’s been a pleasure, and for me, a back-saver as well.
Photo: Headline from January, 1933.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
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