CAPITAL REGION — It looked like a promising start.
That was a fluke.
“Well, I haven’t seen a January like this,” said co-owner Walter Kersch.
Kersch expects losses on the traditionally busy Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, as cross country venues like Pineridge rely on natural snow accumulation for soft, moist surface conditions.
Backed up by artificial snow cannons, Royal Mountain Ski Center in Caroga, Fulton County, expects to open all but one naturally packed trail this weekend. Much of Maple Ridge Ski Resort’s techniques for grooming, the process of moving, packing and compressing snow, and snow cannon-blasting have circumvented an otherwise mucky January in Rotterdam.
Optimal snow production requires air temperature and humidity in sync, as well as high kilowatts of energy. Foot traffic can also wear on the frozen pellets, prompting resorts to shut down on warm days in order to preserve grounds.
That’s happened at Maple Ridge this year — and it’s not an anomaly, stakeholders say. With some seasons stretching out as far as late spring, it’s too early to judge conditions so far, said snowmaker Carolyn LaHart.
“It’s hard because every season is different,” said LaHart, who has worked at the Mariaville Road venue for 16 years. “There are no two that are the same. There are seasons where we have started with a lot less than what we have and there are seasons that we have been fully open.”
To alleviate weather woes, Lapland Lake cross country skiing venue in the Hamilton County town of Benson has relied on recent trail 8infrastructure improvements, according to owner Paul Zahray.
“Usually when things get like this, we focus on quality over quantity rather than seeing how much we can claim is open,” he said. “We try to provide good skiing conditions on what we do have open.”
Meanwhile, ice fishing and snowmobiling accommodations are limited. The Fulton County Sheriffs Department, which has dealt with a number of ice collapse-related drownings over the years, has advised against stepping on the Great Sacandaga Lake until wider swaths of the water freeze over.
Tinny’s Tavern is close to both a lake and a snowmobile trail. The Greenfield establishment alongside Lake Desolation made out well last year, but this season yet hasn’t borne fruit, according to general manager Erika Faas.
“This year, however, yes, it’s extra warm, the lake is open in many spots right now,” said Faas. “Usually by now, that is certainly not an issue, so even if we get snow, right now it’s so warm that we’re really going to need a couple of very good storms and some coldness.”
The Saratoga County establishment closed its seasonal Monday operations and shaved back hours Sunday to deal with the lull. She typically serves members of the Saratoga Snowmobile Association and Galway Trailmasters around this time of year.
In Fulton County, a number of snowmobile trails managed by clubs such as the Southern Adirondack Snowmobile Association, Oppenheim Trailblazers and Nick Stoner Trailers haven’t opened up. The Bleecker Snow Rovers briefly opened up the two trails in December, but rain and warm weather quickly sloshed groomed surfaces.
The 30-year average snowfall for snowfall accumulation in Albany during January is 15.6 inches, February 13.7, March 12 inches and April 1.6. The coldest average yearly period spans from Jan. 17 to Feb. 25, according to the National Weather Service.
The lowest recorded snowfall in Albany was 13.8 inches in the winter of 1912-13, and highest, 112.5 inches, 1970. Last year’s annual snowfall was 36.4 inches, 22.8 inches below a 32-year average,
Currently, Albany has measured 12.9 inches so far this month.
“It’s certainly been a below average year for snowfall for Albany so far,” NWC meteorologist Michael Maine said. “If you were to have a snowy February and March — I’m not going to say it’s going to happen — but if it were to happen, all it takes is a couple big storms for us to end up fairly close to normal for the year.”
The weather has been dramatic at times in other parts of the state. Western New York slammed by a deadly winter storm in December, pushing the yearly snowfall count up 44 inches. New York’s notably snowy Tug Hill plateau spanning portions of counties Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and Oswego has also taken a wintry onslaught from the skies.
The greater Capital Region faced an early wintry onslaught in mid-November, but conditions weren’t sustainable. That month also proved to have the hottest first seven days of any November recorded by NWC.
On Dec. 30, the town of Colonie unveiled a new ice skating rink in place of the basketball court on Braintree Street in West Albany, the first of its kind in about 20 years. With temperatures in the 50s at the time, it hasn’t been usable for ice skating.
“We got it all done, we got it all set to go, we had that little cold spell and then the warm weather hit,” said Colonies Parks Coordinator Tom Breslin.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at [email protected] or 518-527-7659. Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.