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It’s been a great winter for outdoor rec

The Grass Pond lean-to is a fairly popular cross-country ski destination, roughly 2 miles from the Hayes Brook trailhead off state Route 30 in Paul Smiths. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

As this pandemic winter began, we prayed that it would be a good one for outdoor recreation. It would have added insult to injury to have one of those loaded with freeze-thaw cycles, when slush and sleet are predominant. This winter, of all winters, people needed to get outside and do fun activities that can also be opportunities to socialize — socially distanced, of course.

As it turned out, it’s been an excellent winter for those things. We went two months, from Christmas to the end of February, without a significant thaw, and even last weekend’s brief warm spell immediately covered by days and inches of fluffy new snow.

Because the snow has stuck around so nicely, the railroad tracks have been a reliable highway for snowmobilers for a good long stretch; some years there isn’t enough snow to cover the rails for more than a couple of weeks.

While it has been cold enough for ice and snow, it really hasn’t been very cold — not for here, anyway. In Saranac Lake it has only very rarely dipped below minus 10. We’ve seen it get close to minus 20 but not actually hit it — not without wind chill. Typically we get several minus-20 mornings and maybe one at minus 30 each winter. And of course, those who grew up here decades will tell you — accurately, for the most part — of enduring minus-20 weather for weeks on end. We recall multi-day stretches of minus-30, and one or two Winter Carnival parades held in minus 20 in the middle of the day.

While people boast of surviving it, that kind of cold does keep people indoors — but this winter’s weather has not been a hindrance.

Snowmobilers, cross-country and downhill skiers, snowshoers and ice anglers have been out in large numbers. Stores have had trouble keeping skis in stock, and locals have gone further afield to avoid crowds. That’s because they have found themselves joined by a flood of visitors — more than ever by some accounts, despite not having Canadians. Apparently, people around the Northeast have craved a fresh-air getaway in the Adirondacks as a respite from their COVID-cramped lives.

There’s also been a wave of new people moving here. We’re glad they got a nice, fun first winter.

Activities such as skiing and ice fishing are great ways for kids and adults to get together and romp around with their friends — something that’s been hard to arrange during a pandemic. We need that.

So please, get out and enjoy it this weekend. Conditions should be perfect, with fresh snow and highs around 15 or 20, but the weather is about to change. Starting Tuesday, the forecast calls for highs in the 40s and 50s by day, and even some nights above freezing.

It’s March, after all, the time of maple sugaring season and spring skiing on the downhill slopes. Those are wonderful, too, and even though Maple Weekend activities have been canceled due to the pandemic, it’s won’t be too hard to find ways to enjoy yet another special time of the Adirondack year.

Now we all have to pray for no flooding this spring.

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