Outdoor Report: Good bye, dismal December
Winter sport lovers pin hopes on January
For the Star Journal
The best that may be said of January’s arrival for winter sport enthusiasts is that it puts an end to one of the most miserable Decembers ever. December featured temperatures that were too warm and precipitation that fell, for the most part, as rain, not snow. Ice formation on area lakes was delayed beyond reason and ski and snowmobile trails remained bare for most of the month. Add to all that the lack of sunny days and it was a good month to put in the rearview mirror.
What January will bring is a mystery but one hopes it will be a return to a more normal pattern that will make winter sports a reality.
As it stands now the snowfall of earlier this week dropped enough snow to bring some life to cross country skiing. Area trails are being packed and prepared as best as can be hoped for. We still need more snow as the snowfall this week was not sufficient in most cases to set a track for classic skiing. We also need more cold weather as sections of ski trail that pass through lowlands may still be wet, the result of heavy rains recently.
But the best case for skiers is that many trails are at least open though all need more snow. We’ve started the ski season, late but nonetheless it is underway.
The same cannot be said of area snowmobile trails all of which remain closed as we head to New Year’s weekend. The snow of this week was not enough to provide useable trails. And there remain other issues, namely the wet areas in lowlands and the extremely inconsistent ice conditions on area lakes. All of which combine to put snowmobiles on the sidelines for now.
The ice conditions remain variable at best. Many area lakes did not fully freeze over until this week and ice is thin in many places. Deeper lakes are nowhere near safe to walk on let alone use a machine. As a result ice fishing is about where it would normally be in mid to late November; very much a wait-and-see experience.
The best we can offer regarding ice is to consider all lake ice too thin until proven otherwise. Ice anglers will use chisels to test ice and that will be the case for the upcoming weeks. Anyone else looking to skate or ski on lakes, let alone use snowmobiles, simply has to assume ice is too thin in many areas to bear weight.
All that can change with some cold nights that speed ice formation but for now caution is the word as lakes that are normally safe this late in the year are not near that today.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander.