This is my first condition report for the 2018/19 season. We've had one heck of a start to the "snowkite" season for sure. I say "snowkite" because the reality is it's be more of an "icekite" season. Early cold, lack of wind and snowless weather has set up some amazing conditions for those who can tune and edge a ski, skate or own an ice boat or a bike with studded tires.
With such an early ice season comes some added risk. But we have been very lucky this winter and the ice that has set in has been very good and relatively reliable from a safety standpoint. Up until the warm up last weekend and the torrential rains that accompanied it. This said, miles were put on the HWK van the last few days doing inspections on several lakes to see how things have held up.
Things have weather the warmth well. Lakes that had snow on them are a bit rougher surface wise than those that were completely bare or had just a small amount of snow on the surface.
Lakes like Moore Rez suffered the most due to the substantial rise and fall of water levels resulting from the inflow of warm rain. Access to Moore is hazardous at best and the plate, which is only about 4" thick, is heavily fractured. Moore isn't in play just yet IMO.
As far north as Willoughby was scouted in the last few days. Willo, is wide open and whitecaps. Not a stitch of ice anywhere. FYI.
Right now the best lake locally is Squam IMO. Although at the moment there are some considerable hazards to be aware of and unless you know the lake and/or are an experienced ice user, I would stay clear of Squam or anywhere at this time until this new stretch of cold heals things up a bit.
The greatest risks are in some of the narrower passages between islands. Anywhere with a current or shallows. When heading into the sun you have to use EXTREME caution as you cannot see the difference between open water and ice as the sun's glare masks it. On the kite its an odd mix of either carrying enough speed to skim the water if need be or slow enough to bear off in an emergency. Having a little extra power in the kite doesn't hurt. ;-)
Fissures and pressure ridges are beginning to appear. Right now as they are small the key concerns are A) Water coming over the plate where the plate is descending. B) Floating plates where there is so much fracturing that the plate isn't in a big enough piece to support anyone. It can look solid and dry but sink as soon as you hit it. This is often found where the plates (rising and descending) meet. C) the lip of exposed ice on the rising plate. On the kites we can usually just boodt over these hazards. They are definitely more of an issue for non-kiters.
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.