As the shot above illustrates, our conditions have taken A HELL OF A HIT. We hit 70 degrees yesterday and it melted the recent snowfall as well as the surface layer that was made of the last snow that turned to ice. Near the Canadian border we have better conditions but even there things are degrading rapidly.
The shot above was taken during an inspection of Chocorua. Chocorua is currently between 9-16" of ice depending on where you are on the lake. Ice thickness on lakes is often highly variable and in a season as bad as this has been, that variability is exceptional. Many of the lakes this season froze in uneven ways. Some ice got a foothold early and set up strong black ice on portions of a given lake whereas the rest of the lake set up with much lower quality ice. So unless you make the effort (as we do) to check as much of a riding area as you can, you really have no idea how good the ice is. The ice above is a perfect example. The bottom layer of good black ice, is very thin. It was likely a lot thicker but run off and rain are warming the water up and accelerating melt from below. The ice above is a mix of semi-black, highly aerated ice and snow ice (which is barely ice at all). Unlike other seasons where we have at least 5-6" of good black base ice with several inches of white ice on top, this season we have very little black ice and not much weak white ice on top. This ice is prone to candling and rot and in spite of the thickness, won't be "safe" much longer.
Moore Reservoir is a perfect example of how out of wack our ice conditions have been. It was wide open water for much of the early season. It froze a bit later than usual. The great thing about the later freeze is that it set up during a week long cold snap with no precipitation. The result was 9-12" of bomber black ice. However warm temps moved in again. Rain and limited snow melt came in, raised the water level and fractured the plate. The additional effect of the increased solar gain on the black ice, without a layer of snow to insulate and reflect, really took a toll. We only rode Moore once this season and in a week it was unstable and hard to access.
Given what we found over the last few days we have decided that it is prudent at this time to suspend on ice instruction. We are holding off on ending snow kite lessons for the season as this is March in New England and anything can happen. We may get a dump of snow that allows us to continue at our land based teaching points. But in the interest of student safety we will not be conducting lessons on the ice for the rest of this season. We will likely be able to ride lakes up north for a few more weeks but if you do choose to head north be sure to find some local intel about the ice. Detailed intel not just "Oh that ice is 10" thick". Find out the history of the ice and weather over the season to insure a better idea of what you are dealing with.
On the "upside", much of the recent rain and surface melt has been draining off fairly fast. Most of the drain holes, like the one above, have formed in cracks and tend to be small with little risk of falling in. Some larger ones have a lot of dust and silt settling in them and those can be pretty big once the sun starts in on the dust.
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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.