Ski tour to a summer favorite

Jason Labonte, of Saranac Lake, ascends a small rock outcrop on the shore of Moose Pond. (Enterprise photo —Justin A. Levine)

BLOOMINGDALE — Over the summer, Moose Pond is a favorite place to go paddling and swimming for many locals. But in the winter, with a ban on ice fishing and no less than a mile hike to get to the pond, the water body — located between Saranac Lake and Bloomingdale — is largely abandoned.

Largely, but not quite.

On Super Bowl Sunday, my buddy Jason Labonte and I decided to head out early in the morning to ski to the pond from its state Route 3 trailhead. We were pleased to find that the trail had been skied on a couple days prior, and with a couple fresh inches of snow, the conditions were perfect.

With headlamps lighting the trail (we started out at 5 a.m.), we made the easy ski of about a mile and a quarter out to the pond, bearing right at the fork in the trail at just over a mile. We skied down to the edge of the pond to a rock outcrop that makes for an excellent swimming platform in the summer.

With no ice fishing and limited reason for people to venture out on the ice, we had no idea if conditions were safe ahead of time. But with recent cold spells, it made sense that the ice would be thick enough to hold us, especially with skis on. Jason and I gave the ice a check and decided to keep skiing, although we stayed close enough to shore that if the ice did give way we would be close to land.

A chimney and parts of a foundation mark the location of an old resort that was built on the shore of Moose Pond in the 1920s. (Enterprise photo —Justin A. Levine)

(Author’s note: As always, traveling on ice is inherently dangerous, so don’t take this article as gospel that the ice is going to be safe. Check it yourself often and be prepared.)

Skiing along the western shore, we continued north on the pond and before dawn we had reached the far end, where the state boat launch is located. Moose Pond Road, which leads to the launch is closed seasonally, but there were some snowshoe tracks at the parking area.

Jason and I, still in complete darkness, eyed the steep launch and were soon taking short powder runs down the slope and out onto the ice. It wasn’t Whiteface, but earning turns — no matter how few or short — is always a pleasure. Plus, we wanted to kill some time so we could ski out in the daylight.

As the sky began to lighten, we made our way to a little island east of the boat launch. A small slope offered another place to ski downhill, and although I’m not a bad skier, a steeper than expected drop off at the edge of the island put me on my face with skis in the air. After laughing at me, we decided to head back past the boat launch and roughly follow our path out.

But that didn’t happen, as we climbed a rock outcrop near the launch and noticed the large chimney in the woods. The chimney and part of a foundation are part of an old resort that existed prior to the state buying the rest of the shoreline in 1965 (the entirety of the shore is now owned by the state). According to an Enterprise article from 1925, the resort was called Bel-Lago. The trail that now leads to the pond is the remnant of the road that was built to access the resort, although it was a logging road prior to the resort’s improvements. Articles from that time claim that the pond’s name would be changed from Moose Pond to Moose Lake or Bel-Lago Lake, but obviously those changes didn’t stick.

The trail in and out of Moose Pond is wide and easy to navigate, and popular enough that a ski track is usually present. (Enterprise photo —Justin A. Levine)

With the sun coming up, Jason noticed a pair of ski tracks heading from the chimney away from the pond and up into the woods. With no time constraints, we followed the errant path, which briefly led back toward the boat launch before hanging a left and going back toward the cars.

This second path eventually reunited us with our own ski tracks as we approached the point in the trail where we had veered right earlier that morning. And with our tracks packing down the fresh snow, the ski out to the car was a breeze.

Clocking in at 5.6 miles for the morning, the ski tour of one of our favorite spots was a real pleasure, and we each felt better about having a few beers and some unhealthy food while watching the most boring Super Bowl ever later that day.