First day of spring and looking out the window, you wouldn't know it. We got hit pretty well by the last storm and it dumped about 20" of pow. We were fortunate to have some seriously cold temps just after the warm up and just prior to the storm. This cold made for some good ice production as the snow pack that melted down to water set up and made another layer of snow ice. We had firm conditions for a week or two then the storm came and a few lakes were actually solid enough to support the winds and the snow. So we had minimal slushing, in fact many areas remained completely dry and set up some pretty amazing riding conditions.
This said, it is mid-March. And the ice conditions this season have been random to say the least. The cold snap time warped us back about 2 weeks. In a time of year when we usually have ice loss, ice was being produced. But this ice is not good ice and any solar gain will rot it out quickly. Knowing where the good ice stops and where the new week ice is, depends on having seen it over the course of the season or you have to actively go out and check it.
Some of the lakes that are usually late season options, such as Sunapee,(see pic) are out of play for any reasonable margin of safety due to this new ice. While others which are usually out of play, like Silver, have variable 9"-1.5' of ice. Though after the current snow cover thins and the sun can start working on it, thing will degrade quickly. After yesterday's inspections we have a good idea what will go bad first.
Diligent site inspections are critical to safety this time of year. We looked at fresh black ice, over 1" thick that earlier in the season would be some of the strongest ice out there. But with the solar gain this time of year, it went to candle the day after it formed. Other areas with good black ice, regardless of thickness, will likely suffer the same fate. This is the time of year where good black ice covered in less good snow ice, is your safest bet.
We will continue to lessons for at least one more week on ice as conditions allow and make every possible effort to know what the ice is doing at our chosen riding areas. We may be able to continue on land based snow for a few more weeks if we don't get too much warm up.
WARNING. No ice is ever 100% safe. We offer condition reports as a service to our students and clients who are familiar with the area and as a source of general condition information to others. These reports are not intended to replace common sense or up to the minute first hand knowledge of a given area. Nor is it a substitute for common sense. When in doubt don't go out.