Winter wallop eyed for Tri-Lakes

Sharon Bishop, left, and Carol Staples set out on the Adirondack Rail Trail between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid Friday with their dogs June and Kip. (Enterprise photo — Oliver Reil)

SARANAC LAKE — The Tri-Lakes region is expected to receive a significant snowstorm this weekend, bringing hope for winter sports in a season unkind to snow lovers.

“Big snowstorms in March are not rare at all,” said Whiteface Mountain Field Station Science Manager Scott McKim. “It could potentially be kind of the biggest storm of the year for us.”

The National Weather Service in Burlington, Vermont, issued a winter storm warning for 8 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Sunday for the area from Champlain, south to Ticonderoga and west to Star Lake, as well as numerous areas of Vermont, with 8 to 17 inches of heavy snow forecasted. Snowfall is expected at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour today. Snow may become wet by this afternoon, especially in the southern portions of the affected area. According to lead meteorologist Rodney Chai at NWS Burlington, Lake Placid is on track to receive around 10 inches by this afternoon.

The warning stated that “travel could be very difficult or impossible” and “the weight of heavy snow on tree limbs may cause scattered power outages.” The NWS advises that anyone who must travel should keep an extra flashlight, food and water in their vehicle in case of emergency and allow extra time for travel.

This winter, the North Country received an unusually high amount of southern air flow, which is characteristic of an El Nino year, McKim said. McKim is also the founder and race director of the 3P race in Saranac Lake and said they had to cancel the cross-country skiing portion of the race this year, instead opting for a foot race with traction due to the lack of snow.

At the beginning of the month, the Enterprise reported that this winter was the warmest on record in the Saranac Lake area since official records began in 1905, according to the NWS in Burlington. Even with snow on the way, many local ski centers are already closed for the season.

Scotts Cobble Nordic Center at the Craig Wood Golf Course in Lake Placid closed three weeks ago, Manager Dan Pope said, after weeks of warm weather marked what appeared to be an end to the cross-country skiing season.

“It knocked us right out, that last thaw,” he said.

According to NOWData from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the warmest high temperature in March 2023 for the Saranac Lake area was 47 degrees. This March, it was 60 degrees, recorded on March 13. Last March, the data shows an average temperature of 35.9 degrees. This year, the average recorded so far for March is 43.3, but the month is not over.

Though the center will be closed and rentals unavailable, cross-country skiers can still hit the links to enjoy the coming snow; they’ll just have to break their own trail.

Dewey Mountain Recreation Center in Saranac Lake is also closed. An answering machine message at the center said that anyone who uses the trails in their current state should exercise caution; though the impending snow should improve conditions.

The trails at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid were open Friday, including the competition trails. Not all the trails at the Cascade Welcome Center in Lake Placid were open Friday, but an online conditions update included some hope, referencing this weekend’s storm. Whiteface Mountain has received over 12 inches of snow since March 15, with the storm expected to make things even better, according to the conditions report on Friday, when 66 of its 96 trails and nine of its 13 lifts were open.

In Tupper Lake, the James C. Frenette Sr. Recreation Trails are open, with some cross-country skiers and walkers utilizing what’s left of the snow, Tupper Lake town Councilman John Gillis said Friday. Grooming has stopped on the trails, with two of the three groomer machines back in storage at the town garage. However, Gillis said that if there’s good snow overnight Friday, the trails will be groomed Saturday morning, and groomers hope to have the sliding hill groomed as well.

“It should be good skiing if we get enough snow,” he said. “This will be our last hoorah for sure.”


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