Well that was a heck of a warm up. A "January Thaw" and then some. The first day wasn't terrible with 47f temps, sunny skies and nice wind. But the next day, Thursday, was grim in comparison. Similar temps but with rain. The the land based snow lost a lot of loft and depth. I rode North Fryeburg Wednesday and the surface was creamy with a thin crust layer that softened as I rode. It was classic creamy spring kiting. I opted not to ride too much knowing that any tracks that I made would set up and be terrible for riding on after the cold returned. The loss of snow is minimal and will make for good base for more snow as the season goes on.
The lakes, the poor lakes. They took a bit of a beating. Those that we've been accessing since early December have enough ice to weather the warmth. And have done so. Some lakes, that have recently set up, did not fair as well. Those lakes had thinner ice and less snow and were unable to withstand the heat and once the wind started working on them the plates fractured. Resulting in even faster melting.
Lakes that had snow on top now have a layer of shell ice with pockets of water about 2-3" deep and all of it on top of the surface of the ice. The shot to the right shows what the surface of Chocorua is like. While lakes with deeper snow will take a little longer to set up. On the up side, they will have gained a considerable amount of ice. Choco for example has almost a foot now, even without the water on top setting up. While scouting today it was good to see much of the water had drained off the lakes that had minimal snow cover. Ossipee had locked up fairly recently and it was evident today. Large holes have appeared. The had been recent sled traffic and it was striking where the holes opened and where the snow machines had been crossing. On hole was just left of a corridor that had seen a lot of sled traffic. More than big enough to swallow a sled. The image below highlights the hole. There were several holes like this. The big concern here is that they will skim over tonight. At speed, they will be hard to see before you are on top of it. A skier has a good chance of not going in. The weight of a snowmobile is another story.
Silver Lake appeared better than Chocorua or Ossipee. In fact it looked amazing as you can see in the pic below. The surface was a little soft but as the cold front moved in and the temps dropped it seemed reasonable that in an hour or two it would be set up enough to ride a bit. Silver is one of the last lakes we ride as it is one of the last to freeze due to depth and wind. But this season, after that stretch of windless cold, it set up nicely. After the rain and warm it still has about 6-7" of ice. Yesterday it was covered in water and looked like open water on the whole lake. Today it looks like this (see below)
I took my mom out to lunch as I waited for it to freeze a bit. An hour and a half later it was pretty solid. No slush, no pockets of water. The shell ice was in place but the water was all but gone. It was a beautiful surface for the most part. I launched a kite and went for a spin out to the center to see things up close. The winds were stout and I was cruising at a good clip. Once out there I found a number of spider holes (drains). Some were frozen while others were just skimming over.
So where does this leave us? Well, if the cold hangs on the next couple days, the holes will close and things should shape up. Conditions are pretty good for those who know how to ride bare ice and enjoy it. We have suspended ice based lessons until the surfaces get a little cover. Land based stuff is still on tap and ready to go. Firm but good.
I feel that most of the ice is in good shape but you have to be aware of the hazards and look around before you just "throw and go". In addition to the tough ice conditions, the parking conditions are pretty tough too.
Parking can be problematic without the proper gear.
Until next time...
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.