The Taste of Home Cooking School show, supported by the Arts Center/Old Forge, will be presented live at the North Street Recreation Center in Old Forge, NY on Saturday, May 14; doors open at noon, show begins at 3pm.
General Admission Tickets are $15 and may be purchased in person from the Arts Center/Old Forge and DiOrio’s Supermarket and online at www.ArtsCenterOldForge.org. New this year, VIP Packages are available for $45. Contact the Arts Center/Old Forge for more details. » Continue Reading.
The body of a missing Central New York woman was located in the Adirondacks by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers yesterday afternoon.
The body of Kerry Young, 44, of Dewitt, NY was located at approximately 2:00 pm about one mile from her car by two DEC Forest Rangers conducting a ground search. She was found in a stand of conifer trees between the Limekiln-Cedar River Road and Fawn Lake in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest between Indian lake and Inlet. A missing person alert had been issued for Ms. Young on Monday evening, March 28, by the Town of Dewitt Police Department. Town of Inlet Police Department checked a vehicle they had noticed parked on the entrance road to the DEC Limekiln Lake Campground off the Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road and confirmed that it belonged to Ms. Young.
DEC Forest Rangers were contacted to lead the search effort, which began Tuesday morning. Forest Rangers were assisted by members of the NY State Police, State Police Aviation, Town of Inlet Fire Department, Town of Inlet Police Department, Town of Webb Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff, members of Lower Adirondack Search and Rescue and other volunteers. More than 50 people and a helicopter were involved in the search effort today. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, February 10 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook. The February meeting is one day only and will be webcast live. The meeting will be webcast live.
Among the issues to be considered is a boathouse variance, bridges and culverts in the Park, development in Queensbury and Westport, Green programs at the Golden Arrow Resort in Lake Placid, and a presentation on alpine meadow vegetation. Here is the full agenda:
The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report where she will present the 2010 annual report.
At 10:45 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a request for a shoreline structure setback variance to authorize the construction of stairs onto an existing boathouse. The project site is located on First Bisby Lake in the Town Webb, Herkimer County. Jim Bridges, Regional Design Engineer, and Tom Hoffman, Structure Engineer, from the NYS Department of Transportation will then brief the committee on the status of bridges and culverts inside the Adirondack Park.
At 1:00, the Full Agency will convene for the Community Spotlight presentation. This month Town of Brighton Supervisor John Quenell will discuss issues and opportunities facing this Franklin County town.
At 1:45, the Local Government Services Committee will consider approving an amendment to revise the Town of Queensbury’s existing zoning law. The committee will also hear a presentation from the Town of Westport to utilize a Planned Unit Development (PUD) in conjunction with a linked Agency map amendment process to establish growth areas within the town.
At 3:00, the Economic Affairs Committee will hear a presentation from Jenn Holderied-Webb from the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid on “green programs.” The Golden Arrow Resort implemented unique initiatives to establish itself as an environmentally friendly resort.
At 3:45, the State Land Committee will hear a presentation on alpine meadow vegetation.
At 4:15, the Full Agency will convene will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.
Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.
The March Agency is scheduled for March 17-18, 2011 at Agency headquarters in Ray Brook.
April Agency Meeting: April 14-15 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.
Ice Fishing Season has begun around the North Country, meaning you can now legally catch fish with a tip-up from the ice. The problem? No ice.
Thin ice is just one of the climate related impacts we have come to expect in this era of declining Adirondack winters. According to a 2000 article in Science, over the past 150 years in the Northern Hemisphere lake “freeze dates averaged 5.8 days per 100 years later, and changes in break-up dates averaged 6.5 days per 100 years earlier.” Those numbers are born out in the Adirondacks where the warmest years on record have nearly all occurred since 1990. A 2009 study of Mirror Lake showed ice now forms “14-15 days later and melts 3-4 days earlier than it did in the early 1900s, thereby reducing seasonal ice cover duration by slightly more than two weeks.” What does that mean for us? If you are among the estimated 20% or so of Adirondack residents employed in climate sensitive business, it means a lot. According to Jerry Jenkins, author of Climate Change in the Adirondacks, “No town can really prosper without a year-round economy, and no Adirondack town can have a year-round economy without winter recreation.” Jenkins provides an overview of our winter economy:
Area skiing takes place on over 300 miles of groomed trails at 29 different ski areas. Backwoods skiing uses several hundred miles more. Snowmobiling uses 800 miles of groomed trails on state land and several hundred miles of trails on private land. Ice climbing takes places on over 100 routes on 13 major cliffs. Ice fishing… is done locally on most lakes. To support this activity requires several hundred businesses to run facilities and feed, house, and equip participants.
Jenkins looked in detail at the Old Forge area and found that the Town of Webb issues about 10,000 snowmobile trail passes a year alone and benefited from an additional three local ski areas. He found that 78 of the 94 restaurants and inns were open in winter, six businesses sell, repair, or rent snowmobiles, 20 more sell equipment and other merchandise. Jenkins believes that 500 to 1,000 people are employed by the winter economy in the Old Forge area alone.
One thing seems clear now about climate change. Leaders in the climate sensitive sectors of our local economies should already understand the temperature change our region faces and be planning ways to lessen the impacts of local warming.
During the recent Wintergreen event it became clear to me that the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) fails to appreciate the impact of warming on our winter sports economy.
What convinced me that ORDA was behind the ball? Considering the state’s budget woes that seem to threaten ORDA’s very existence, I would have thought the agency’s president and CEO Ted Blazer would have come to the Wintergreen conference armed for bear. I would have thought he’d be rolling out numbers showing the economic importance of local winter sports and ORDA’s important role in perpetuating them. Instead participants at Wintergreen were offered a litany of energy saving projects, mostly at Whiteface, that left a number of participants I spoke with concluding that Blazer just didn’t get it – that ORDA had no plan.
During a break I found Blazer at the back of the room with Whiteface General Manager Bruce McCulley, the brother of vocal motorized access advocate James McCulley, who was sitting in for a representative of the Ski Educational Foundation. I asked Blazer if ORDA had a plan. “We’re using common sense and internal initiatives,” he said. The plan? No plan.
Mount Van Hovenberg and Gore Mountain, ORDA’s oft-forgotten stepchildren, were not even represented at the meeting, the first to offer hard numbers on what climate change will mean to our winter economy. Repeated requests to ORDA’s press office inquiring whether the agency’s facilities even tracked snow cover, temperature and other climate change phenomenon went unanswered.
ORDA has a uniquely important leadership role in addressing the challenges we face from global warming. ORDA’s national and international role in winter sports and winter sports culture represents a significant investment, not just by locals, athletes, and their organizations, but by all taxpayers. Forget for a minute ORDA’s $20 million Olympic Conference Center project, think of ORDA’s “continued decline in revenues” according to WNBZ Jon Alexander, that “shows no prospects of the authority getting out of the red anytime soon.”
ORDA’s operating budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 is $32.4 million, which anticipates a $600,000 decline in facilities revenues. According to Alexander, “the operating losses balloon to $13.4 million once $7.5 million in depreciation is included.” About half of that shortfall is expected to be recouped with $7.14 million in state taxpayer-funding.
ORDA seems to understand that their revenues are in steady decline, but it’s not clear whether ORDA leadership knows whether or not the shortened natural snow season, and the additional costs of snow-making and grooming, has anything to do with that decline. “The 2010-2011 budget anticipates a continued revenue decline at Whiteface, with the facility making $1 million less than this year, but also projects a $200,000 increase at Gore,” Alexander reported. Those numbers include increases in ticket prices and advertising revenues.
Attendees at the Wintergreen conference learned some startling numbers about the impact of our winter sports economy, among them that fact ORDA has about 1,200 local employees. According to five year old report [pdf] ORDA contributes about $300 million to the local economy. In 2006, Lake Placid’s sports and tourism venues received more than $40 million in state subsidies according to a report by NCPR’s Brian Mann (about $15 thousand for resident of the Village of Lake Placid). Those are significant investments in our winter economy, investments we need to safeguard.
I can’t forget what Blazer told me when I asked him about a plan to deal with warmer winters impact on ORDA’s bottom line: “We’re using common sense and internal initiatives.”
Common sense tells me that with so much at stake, ORDA needs a thoughtful plan to address the impacts of climate change on its – and one of our region’s – core businesses. Photo by John Warren: Whiteface Mountain on November 12th.
McCauley Mountain and the Polar Bear Ski Club will hold their annual Season Ski Pass Sale and Consignment Sale this Saturday, November 6, 2010 from 9 am until Noon at McCauley Mountain Ski Area in Old Forge. From 10 am until Noon the Ski Patrol will be demonstrating chair lift evacuation. Spectators are welcome.
There will be new equipment vendors on site for the event, as well as used equipment by consignment. Items for the consignment sale should be at the McCauley Mountain Chalet between 8 am and 9 am on Saturday morning.
Season Passes purchased on the day of the sale include a free lunch. Season Ski Passes will be processed and issued immediately. Season Pass sale prices are $239 for an adult, $179 for juniors ages 18 and under, $99 for seniors ages 60-69. There is a special maximum family price of $836. There is also a Five-Day Pass good for any five days for $119 each. November 6th is also a volunteer workday to help prepare the slopes for the upcoming winter ski season. Participation of area youth is requested, and all volunteers are welcome. For additional information, call McCauley Mountain at 315-369-3225.
On May 9, 1903, a seemingly minor error led to a terrible catastrophe near Old Forge in the southwestern Adirondacks. About seven miles south on Route 28 was Nelson Lake siding (a side rail, or pullover) on the Mohawk & Malone Railroad (an Adirondack branch of the New York Central). A little farther down the line from Nelson Lake was the village of McKeever.
That fateful day started like any other. From Malone, New York, about 90 miles northeast of Nelson Lake, train No. 650 (six cars) was heading south on its route that eventually led to Utica. At around 8:00 that morning and some 340 miles south of Malone, train No. 651 of the Adirondack and Montreal Express departed New York City. At 1:05 pm, it passed Utica, beginning the scenic run north through the mountains. The original plan called for the northbound 651 to pass through McKeever and pull off on the siding at Nelson Lake, allowing the southbound 650 to continue on its way. It was a routine maneuver. On this particular trip, the 651 northbound (normally a single train) was divided into two parts. The intent was to pull both parts aside simultaneously at Nelson Lake siding.
However, the 2nd unit heading north was traveling much slower than the nine cars of the 1st unit, prompting a change in plans. Because of the distance between the two units, it was ordered that the train from Malone (the 650) would meet the 1st section of 651 at Nelson Lake. Three miles down the line, it would meet the 2nd section at McKeever.
The actual written order said “2nd 651 at McKeever.” An official investigation later determined that the order was read to the engineman and then handed to him. But, when later reviewing the note, his thumb had covered the “2nd” on the order. All he saw was “651 at McKeever.” As far as he knew, he would pass both parts of the 651 at the McKeever side rail.
When the southbound 650 train approached Nelson Lake, the engineer believed there was no reason to reduce speed. He passed the Nelson siding at between 50 and 60 miles per hour. Just 1,000 feet past the side rail, the 650 suddenly encountered Unit 1 of the northbound 651. It was traveling at about 10 to 15 miles per hour, slowing for the upcoming turn onto the side rail at Nelson Lake. It didn’t make it.
The 650’s whistle blew and the emergency brake was engaged, slowing the train slightly before the tremendous collision. A newspaper report described “a roaring crash, a rending of iron and wood, a cloud of dust and splinters, and the trains were a shattered mass. The locomotives reared and plunged into the ditch on either side of the track.”
The impact had the least effect on the last occupied car of each train, but even those passengers were thrown from their seats, suffering minor injuries. The two trains had a total of 16 cars, half of which were splintered and piled atop each other.
While all the cars were badly damaged, it was the front of both trains that suffered most. Several of the lead cars were completely destroyed. Others telescoped within each other, causing horrific injuries. Screams of pain drew help from those who were less impaired.
The two trains carried more than 200 passengers. Nearly everyone suffered some type of injury from flying bits of glass and metal. Some victims were pinned within the wreckage, and a few were thrown through windows. Thirty-seven (mostly from the 650) required hospitalization.
Three passengers suffered critical injuries, including at least one amputation. There were dozens of broken bones and dangerous cuts. When some of the damaged cars ignited, passengers and railroad employees joined forces to extinguish the flames. Others performed rescue missions, removing victims and lining them up side-by-side near the tracks for treatment.
Three men were killed in the accident. Frank Foulkes, conductor of the northbound train (651), was later found in a standing position, crushed to death by the baggage that surged forward from the suddenness of the impact. John Glen, Union News Company agent on the southbound train (650), was killed when he was caught between two cars. William Yordon, fireman on the 650, died in his engine, scalded to death by the steam, like the hero of the song “Wreck of the Old 97.” Another report said that Yordon’s head was crushed.
A surgeon and a few doctors arrived from Old Forge, tending to the wounded. Trains were dispatched from Malone and Utica to haul the injured passengers both north and south. Another train set forth from Utica, carrying several more doctors to the scene.
The northbound 651 wasn’t only carrying human passengers that day. A theatrical company, performing A Texas Steer at various theaters and opera houses, was on board, including a variety of animals. Identified as the Bandit King Company, the troupe had a special horse car for animals belonging to the show.
When the collision forced the door open, a horse leaped out and ran off. Others weren’t so lucky. A passenger reported that the trained donkey, the pigs, and most of the other animals were killed. Amidst the chaos and their own losses, the men and women performers provided first aid for the injured until doctors arrived. They were later praised effusively for their efforts.
It took a 40-man crew four days to clear the wreckage from the massive pileup. The official report to the New York State Senate by the superintendent of the Grade Crossing Bureau in 1904 cited the engineman’s finger as the probable cause of the accident.
Top Photo: 1912 map of the Nelson Lake area 7 miles southwest of Old Forge. The extra tracks at Nelson Lake indicate the siding.
Bottom Photo: Unfortunate thumb placement inadvertently led to tragedy.
Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
A growing motorcycle event in Old Forge has been getting a lot of attention from the bike crowd for it’s laid back atmosphere and lack of overt commercialism. Thunder in Old Forge 2010 includes activities planned throughout the Town of Webb and the Central Adirondacks this coming weekend, June 4-6.
The event features several planned rides around the Central Adirondacks, 14 judged trophy classes (judging begins at 4:00 pm on Saturday), a small vendor and exhibitor area at the Hiltebrant Recreation Center Pavilion on North Street, a parade, Blessing of the Bikes, and more. Tickets are $5; for a complete listing of all the weekend activities can be found at www.thunderinoldforge.com or by calling 315-369-6983. You can also follow the event on Twitter.
Major snowmobile dealers Ski Doo, Yamaha, Polaris and Arctic Cat premier 2011 models this weekend and offer demo rides (weather permitting). Thousands of snowmobile enthusiasts take advantage of this opportunity to be the first to preview next year’s sleds and gear. There will be Freestyle Snocross Shows both days, with a Back-Flip Fireworks Finale on Saturday at 7pm.
Gates to the North Street Recreation Center will be open Saturday 9am–9pm, and Sunday 10am–4pm. Admission is free. Signage will indicate parking and shuttle buses will transport event goers. Snofest 2010 is sponsored by the Central Adirondack Association. » Continue Reading.
Beaver River (nine year-round residents) is not the easiest place to visit. Most tourists get there by driving along remote, dirt roads to Stillwater Reservoir and then taking a boat for six miles or so to the hamlet.
For years, the Thompson family has run a water taxi between the reservoir’s boat launch and the hamlet. The Thompsons also operate a barge that ferries vehicles across an arm of the reservoir to a dirt road that can be driven to Beaver River. In winter, it’s also possible to reach the community by snowmobile. Last year the state Department of Environmental Conservation refused to issue the Thompsons a permit to continue their water taxi and ferry, contending that the family’s operations at the state-owned launch amount to an illegal use of the Forest Preserve.
The Thompsons ran the water taxi and ferry without a permit in 2009, but it’s doubtful that DEC will look the other way this year. In January, DEC wrote a letter demanding that the family cease its operations at the launch and remove its docks from state land.
The Thompsons, who run the Norridgewock inn and restaurant in Beaver River, say DEC would cut off access to the hamlet and hurt their business.
Alan Wechsler wrote about the dispute in the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer. Click here to read the story.
Soon after the story’s appearance online, the Explorer received some e-mails and phone calls from owners of summer camps at Beaver River. It seems that not everyone in Beaver River supports the Thompsons. The Explorer was told that many people with camps oppose the Thompsons’ efforts to secure road access to the hamlet. These people like the isolation.
DEC is negotiating with the Thompsons to try to settle the matter, but if the talks fail, the controversy could come to a head after the ice thaws and the summer people start returning to Beaver River.
Photo by Phil Brown: The Thompson family’s barge at Stillwater Reservoir.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a legislative hearing on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at the Forestport Town Hall on a proposed widening and improvement of a ten mile stretch of Route 28 from Route 12 (in Forestport, Oneida County) to the Moose River in the Town of Webb (Herkimer County). The project sponsors, NYSDOT and National Grid, will also be there to answer questions or address concerns about the design of the project. APA staff will be available to discuss the permitting process. The legislative hearing will start at 6:15pm. Here is a description of the project and other details on the meeting which were supplied by the APA:
The project begins approximately 6 miles north of the intersection of Routes 12 and 28 in Alder Creek and terminates at the Moose River in McKeever for a total project length of approximately 10.3 miles. The project consists of resurfacing a section from the southerly limit of the project for a length of approximately 2 miles; a reconstruction section for approximately 2.5 miles through Woodgate and a portion of White Lake; resurfacing a section with minor widening for a length of approximately 1.5 miles through a portion of White Lake; and resurfacing a section for the remainder of the project for a length of approximately 4.5 miles through Otter Lake to the Moose River in the Town of Webb. There will be utility relocations throughout the reconstruction section to provide a minimum offset from the edge of travel lane of 16 feet. There will be additional isolated utility pole relocations within the resurfacing sections to provide the same 16 foot offset.
PURPOSE OF MEETING: This is an informal legislative hearing conducted by the Adirondack Park Agency pursuant to APA Act section 804(6) to receive public comment on the proposed project. The hearing will include introductory presentations on the project design by the NYS Department of Transportation and National Grid. Agency staff will take notes on the public comment. Comments may be submitted by verbal statements during the hearing or by submitting a written statement. Agency Board Members and Designees may be present to hear the public comments. The Agency Board will make its decision on the project at one of its monthly meetings at some time in the near future.
GOAL OF THE MEETING: To allow the public to express concerns regarding this proposed project and how it may positively or negatively impact individual properties or the community.
MEETING FORMAT: NYSDOT, National Grid and APA personnel will be available from 5:30 to 6:15, prior to the formal presentation, to address any questions or concerns that individuals may have about the design of the project or the APA permitting process. At 6:15 APA Deputy Director Mark Sengenberger will commence the formal portion of the hearing. He will introduce NYSDOT and National Grid personnel who will make brief presentations concerning the project objectives, scope, schedule and cost. During the presentations, the public can ask questions for clarification purposes only. Following the presentations, members of the public will have the opportunity to make brief verbal statements about the project. There will be a sign up sheet for any persons wishing to make public comment. In order to allow everyone to speak who wants to, comments will be limited to no more than 3 minutes in length and speakers will go in the order that they signed up. Members of the public can provide additional written comments to the Agency at or after the meeting. Town of Forestport and Town of Webb officials will be present and introduced at the meeting.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, July 9 and Friday July 10 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The July meeting will be webcast live on the Agency’s homepage. The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for the Acting Executive Director’s monthly report. Here is the full APA agenda: At 9:15 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a proposal from the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency and Graymont Materials (NY) Inc. to undertake a two-lot subdivision and relocate Graymont’s existing ready-mix concrete batch plant from the Village of Tupper Lake to an existing 135+/- acre business park located on the westerly side of Pitchfork Pond Road in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County.
The new facility would be located on a 5.07+/- lot and include a ready-mix concrete batch plant, a boiler room, an office/lab, a stockpile area of crushed stone and sand, and parking areas. A self contained/recycling truck washout pit which would contain all material washed off/out of the trucks would also be located on project site.
Key issues include revisions to business park covenants, potential impacts to adjoining land uses, visual impacts and local approvals.
Next the committee will consider a second permit renewal for a single- family dwelling and temporary two-lot subdivision into sites in the town of Webb, Herkimer County.
The committee will also determine approvability for a Verizon proposed 74-foot telecommunications tower and 10-foot lightning rod for an overall height of 84-feet. The proposed tower would be installed east of the Northway in the Town of North Hudson, Essex County adjacent to the northbound High Peaks Rest Stop, which is located between exits 29 and 30, on Interstate 87.
Key issues include Agency Towers Policy compliance and co-location potential.
At 11:30, the Legal Affairs Committee will receive an update on the Agency’s proposed legislation involving affordable housing incentives, permit reforms and community planning funds. Staff will also provide a status update on current regulatory revision.
At 1:00, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will consider a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and authorization for staff to conduct a public hearing for proposed map amendments to the Official Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan. The Town of Inlet, Hamilton County is requesting the reclassification of approximately 1,913 acres of private land. The proposals are located in four areas throughout the town and would result in the reclassification of:
• Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use; 203.4+/- acres • Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use; 23.6+/- acres • Rural Use to Moderate Intensity Use; 1043.7+/- acres • Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use; 642.6+/- ac
Following this discussion the committee will hear a presentation from Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages President Brain Towers and Jim Martin from the LA Group on the recently completed Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project. The discussion will focus on the community infrastructure inventory that was conducted as part of the regional assessment.
At 2:30, the Administration Committee will hear a final reading and possibly adopt revisions to the Agency’s Policy & Guidance System. In addition, Acting Executive Director James Connolly will inform the committee about ongoing landscaping efforts at the APA facility in Ray Brook.
At 3:30, the Enforcement Committee will come to order for administrative enforcement proceedings related to alleged permit violations resulting from non compliant signage on commercial businesses in the Town of Ticonderoga, Essex County and an alleged wetland fill/disturbance violation on a private property in the Town of Hopkinton, St Lawrence County.
On Friday morning at 9:00, the Interpretive Programs Committee will convene for a presentation on regional events planned for the Quadricentennial celebration and events planned for September 19th at the Crown Point Historic Site.
The Full Agency will convene at 10:00 to take action as necessary and conclude the meeting with committee reports, public and member comment.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is looking for volunteers to be a part of the Thendara railroad experience, especially as car host volunteers who can work shifts between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on any days between Wednesday and Sunday.
Volunteer car hosts typically act as assistants to the conductor during train rides out of the Thendara station, talking with passengers, answering questions and managing passenger experiences. The Adirodnack Express has all the details.
In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, in Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. Part Four covered the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region, a topic we’ll conclude this series with today.
As the the 1970s began, new snowmobile clubs and riders argued for more trails and Adirondack locals increased their investment in the industry. The New York Times, noted in an piece tilted “Snowmobiles in the Adirondacks” in 1972:
An economic boom is putt-putting into the remote fringes of the Adirondack Forest Preserve these days on the rubber tracks and diminutive skis of the snowmobile. Some restaurants, banks, gasoline stations, and grocery stores, long accustomed to depressingly quiet winters in this snowfast region, now are doing a volume of business that reminds them of days in July and August. Each weekend, some 11,000 snowmobilists fan out from . . . downstate areas for a day or two of picnicking and racing on the lakes and mountains.
The local residents of such villages as Speculator are happy to see the winter weekenders trundling along the highways with their snowmobiles cradled on trailers behind their cars. “Most winters we used not to make expenses,” said Howard Romaine, a restaurant proprietor here. “But with these snowmobile people coming in, the millennium has arrived.”
As snowmobilers talked about the economic impacts of their sport in the Adirondacks, the number of snowmobile being sold every year boomed to unprecedented levels. In the early 1970s there just over a hundred snowmobile makers. The most profitable were the big three – Bombardier / Ski Doo, Polaris, and Artic Cat – but motorcycle and outboard motor companies also branched out to take advantage of the increasing popularity in the sport.
From 1970 to 1973 more than 2 million sleds were sold but the popularity of the sport was at its peak. Never again would sled sales equal those golden years. The recession of 1973 and a declining economy throughout the 1970s helped slow outdoor sports sales at a time when other opportunities to ride – namely ATVs – were beginning to emerge.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, a new environmental awareness made it less desirable among many to run the trails on a noisy motor powered machine. Noise was a major factor in the first attempts to seriously regulate snowmobiles. The reason was explained by snowmobile historian Leonard Reich:
Snowmobiles were noisy for technical, economic, and social reasons. Technically, it was difficult to quiet their two-stroke engines without compromising power output. Baffled mufflers that worked well on four-stroke engines disrupted the two-stroke’s exhaust flow and robbed it of power. To be effective a muffler had to contain substantial quantities of sound-absorbing materials, which made it large, bulky, and expensive. Even if the exhaust could be quieted, the engine’s air intake created noise, and the entire drive system of clutches, gearing or chains, and track added even more. Shrouds and other enclosures helped, but they too added weight, bulk, and expense.
Even though noisy snowmobiles could have an adverse impact on riders’ hearing, many wanted loud machines. An article in Snow-Mobile Times commented, “For some snowmobilers, noise is a large part of the fun of the sport. The sound of that loud motor means power, speed, the thrill of being in control of a revved-up machine.” Snowmobile dealers knew their market. As one commented, “If it’s noisy and goes like hell, it will sell.”
By 1972, a number of state legislatures had acted to curb snowmobile noise, setting decibel limits for a full-throttle machine heard from 50 feet. When the maker of the Johnson Skee-Horse and Evinrude Skeeter committed itself to achieving 73 decibels within six years, the ISIA [International Snowmobile Industry Association, formed in 1965 by Bombardier] grudgingly went along, and several states wrote that limit into their legislation. It was not long, however, before the industry “recognized that it had spoken too quickly and had to backtrack when subsequent engineering and marketing analyses led most industry members to conclude that they could not produce a marketable machine meeting this noise standard.” What that statement meant, of course, was that the added expense and reduced “vroom” would significantly cut into sales.
In 1971 efforts to increase the miles of trails as a hedge to the rampant trespassing and misuse of cross-country ski trails began in earnest. By 1973 more than 40,000 miles of snowmobile trails had been built in North America. By the end of the 1970s the number had more than doubled. In 1980, an ad-hoc DEC survey of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks estimated that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in the region. When the DEC announced it 2006 Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondacks it noted that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in Wild Forest and Primitive Areas alone and another 1,172 miles of funded snowmobile trails in the park as a whole not including perhaps more than a thousand additional miles maintained through lease agreements with private landowners by towns (particularly Webb and Inlet) and local clubs. The entire 2006 Snowmobile Report can be found here.
While the number of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks has increased dramatically since the sled boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the number of sleds sold each year continues to slump.
According to Leonard Reich:
For the 1968 model year, an unpleasant statistic, called “carryover,” crept into the industry’s production and sales figures. That year, 170,000 machines were produced but only 165,000 sold to consumers. The remaining 5,000 awaited the following year in dealers’ hands. The next year carryover increased to 35,000, then shot up to 100,000 in 1971 on a sales volume of just under 500,000.
In 1971, snowmobile sales for the first time failed to increase substantially over the previous season, thus exacerbating the carryover problem. Whereas 1968’s 165,000 sales had become 1969’s 250,000 and 1970’s 460,000, sales fell short of 500,000 in 1971. In an industry accustomed to rapid growth, many producers soon faced bankruptcy, and the shakeout began. Sales remained in the 400,000-500,000 range through 1974, while carryover increased from 125,000 in 1972 to 315,000 in 1973, and to 500,000 in 1974, a colossal drag on the industry.
By 1997, sales had reached 260,000 sleds and have continued to drop ever since. With the advent of ATVs (which evolved in the 1960s and spread in the 1970s and 1980s) and the reduction of annual snow cover due to global warming, the snowmobile may be on its way to becoming a relic of the past.
In North Creek the Gore Mountain – Little Gore Ski Bowl connection is moving forward and there are big plans afoot for the ski area in Tupper Lake as well.
Also in Sunday’s Adirondack news: The APA is cracking down on a rich guy in the Town of Webb who apparently doesn’t think he has to follow the same rules as the rest of us – and the search for the Adirondack League Club arsonist continues.