Items tagged with 'winter'
A lot of the post-blizzard talk Wednesday in Albany was about snow plowing -- in some cases, the lack of snow plowing. While the city's main streets were (remarkably) clear by Wednesday, many of the neighborhood side streets were decidedly not.
Here are some thoughts about how the city -- and all us -- might do better next time.
Update Tuesday morning: The National Weather Service has upgraded the situation to a blizzard warning through Wednesday morning. Snow totals are now predicted to be in the 18-24 inch range. "Extremely dangerous travel conditions due to snow covered roads, white-out conditions along with blowing and drifting snow."
Winter's decided to kick it old school.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for this region starting at Monday night and continuing until Wednesday evening as a big Nor'easter makes its way up the coast. The paraphrased forecast:
Monday night: Snow starts late, mostly after midnight. Maybe an inch. Lows in the mid 20s.
Tuesday: Lots of snow, heavy at times -- maybe 1-3 inches per hour at times. Highs in the mid 20s.
Tuesday night: More snow, windy. Lows around 16.
Wednesday: Snow continues, windy. Upper 20s.
Wednesday night: Chance of snow declining. Lows in the 10s.
As mentioned up top, this is a coastal storm and, as you know, the track of these storms can be hard to predict and the path can make a big difference in how much snow we get. But the NWS Albany forecast discussion indicates the models are starting to converge on a path that will bring us some serious snow totals.
Some quick follow-up to ongoing winter climate weirdness...
Meteorological winter ended with February, and it was the 10th warmest on record for Albany with average temperature of 31.4 degrees -- 5.8 degrees warmer than the normal. (Glens Falls logged its warmest on record.) [NWS Albany]
And February itself was odd: It was the third warmest on record for Albany with an average temperature of 33.3 degrees-- 7.4 degrees warmer than the normal.
The almost two feet of snow we got during February did put us something closer to the normal -- we're now about 6 inches behind the typical amount.
With the new numbers, we've updated our Albany winters cold and snowy (or not) weirdness graph. It's above, with the 2016-2017 marked in orange. It was another weird winter for temperature. And, if we don't end up getting any more snow this season, it will be an almost-weird winter for snow.
Which is all becoming very usual.
Earlier on AOA: The warmest winter day
This all sounds familiar...
The high temperature Friday hit 74 degrees at Albany International Airport. That is not just a new record for highest temp on record for the month in Albany (besting the record set... Thursday) -- it's also now the highest temperature on record for any of the three meteorological winter months in Albany.
The previous winter record had been 71, which had been reached on three previous dates.
Albany temperature records date back 1874.
We noticed our crocus was started poke through the dirt today. Someone please convince all the flowering trees and plants to hold out a little bit longer.
Earlier on AOA: Yep, winter's been odd in recent years
In the time before all-wheel drive: An Albany company was once famous for making sleek, luxury sleighs popular during the 1800s.
The James Goold Company, located on Broadway in downtown Albany, was one of the country's most prominent manufacturers of carriages for early trains and trolleys and streetcars. But it was the design of its sleighs -- specifically the "Albany Cutter" -- that really caught 19th century eyes.
It's fair to say that winter hasn't been itself for a while, going almost two full seasons now.
Last winter was extraordinarily warm and un-snowy. And this winter has also been... underwhelming. As of February 8, this winter is almost 18 inches behind the normal pace for snow (though it should pick up some of that during Thursday's storm). And the January we just finished had an average temperature 8 degrees warmer than normal.
Winter, we're starting to worry about you, old man.
It's felt like winter has been acting strangely for years now. But memory can be a blurry thing, a picture where the unusual events stay sharp and the ordinary fades into the background.
So we thought it'd be interesting to look at more than a century's worth of winters in Albany to get a sense of whether things really have been weird lately.
That photo above is from Albany's Lincoln Park in 1930 and shows the large skating rink the city would create there in the park's "bowl" that was the scene of a big winter sports carnival. (A tip of the hat to the Albany Muskrat for highlighting the photo from the Albany Group Archive.)
Here's another pic that give a sense of the crowds the carnival attracted.
What'd they come to see? All sorts of events on ice. There were hockey games, speed skating races, "fancy" skating. And the event brought in stars. Olympic gold medal speed skater Charles Jewtraw and the world record holder for barrel jumping -- Edmond Lamy -- were there in 1927. And in 1928 figure skaters Gladys Lamb and Norval Baptie -- "famous for the airplane spin" -- performed for crowds.
If winter ever decides to be winter again, Albany should really think about bringing back barrel jumping.
Could you help me find a place where adults can swim in the winter? I live in Colonie and I know about the Ciccotti Center, but it's way out of my price range.
Sometimes it's hard to get exercise during the winter because of the weather, but it's worth the effort -- you'll feel better for it, about yourself and about winter.
So, got a suggestion for Brooks? Please share! And sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be a big help.
The ice skating rink at the Empire State Plaza opened for the season Friday. When we stopped by this afternoon there were a bunch of kids skating and laughing.
The rink will now be open seven days a week, 11 am-8 pm (closed 3-4 pm for maintenance). It's free to skate. And skate rentals are $4 / $3 for kids / free on Fridays. A photo ID is required for skate rental. And, of course, the rink is open weather permitting.
There are also a series of clinics and special events related to the rink through the winter, such as learn-to-skate clinics and try-hockey clinics. Registration is required for the clinics and they often fill up fast. (The learn-to-skate clinic this Saturday is already full.)
The rink does tend to get busy on the weekends. Our favorite time to go is in the evenings during the week. (If you're driving, you can usually snag a spot along State Street.) Stopping by to skate for an hour after work + dinner someplace downtown = a better than usual Wednesday.
And it's good to see people out in the space during the winter. It makes it seem less cold.
Swinburne Skating Rink
The city of Albany's Swinburne Skating Rink is set to open Monday, December 5 (weather permitting). Here are the hours and admission/skate rental info...
So, it snowed. In October.
And, as it turns out, that's not all that unusual. In fact, the average start date of the snowfall season for this area is October 28, according to the NWS Albany office. (And average end date: April 16.)
Here's a look at the length of every snow season on record for Albany...
The (meteorological) winter that just ended was the warmest, least snowy on record in Albany, according to the local office of the National Weather Service.
The average temperature for this past December, January, and February was 33.4 degrees -- that's 7.8 degrees higher than normal, and .7 degrees higher than the old record set in 1931-1932. (Temperature records date back 1820.)
The total snowfall for those three months was just 10.3 inches -- 33.5 inches less than the 30-year normal for that period. The total just dipped below the old record of 10.9 inches set in 1936-1937. (Records date back to to 1884-1885.)
(Even with the low snow total, this area wasn't short on precipitation. The Albany area got 8.98 inches of rain from December through February, which is more than a inch above the normal level.)
The NWS Albany office also reported this week that this past meteorological winter had the most number of days with high temps above 50 degrees -- 24 days total -- of any winter on record (since 1874). The previous record had been 17 in 2001-2002.
And this snowfall season -- October through May -- is still in the running for least snowiest ever. We're currently at 10.3 inches since last summer (36.6 inches off the normal pace). The record is 13.8 inches, set in 1912-1913 (dating back to 1884-1885).
Can anyone tell me where I can get speed ice skates sharpened? They're not done the same way as hockey or figure skates, and I haven't found anyone who'll sharpen mine. Thanks for any help, suggestions.
We've had a skate sharpening question a bunch of years ago, and we're guessing some of those places still offer the service. But we're wondering if there's like the place to get skates sharpened (or maybe there are a few of these places) -- and if that place might be able to help Jean.
Got a suggestion? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place is always appreciated.
Earlier on AOA: Capital Region Ice Skating
The last few weeks have been good outdoor skating weather -- cold nights, some sun during the day, and very little snow. So ponds and other outdoor skating spots should be shaping up with the season. (Though you'll probably have to hold off for a few warms days this week.)
There are a bunch of spots around the Capital Region for ice skating, both outside and inside. AOA has a listing/map of more than 20 places and it's now updated for the current winter -- so go have a look.
Skating is either free or cheap at a lot of these places. And it's a fun reason to get out of the house.
If you know of a place that should be on the list, please let us know in the comments.
Gray skies and freezing temperatures are outside. You don't want to leave the house because you have to layer yourself like a lasagna and the air hurts your face. Oh no, it's happening again. The winter time blues.
I crave the warmth and sunlight of summer just like you do, but it's no excuse to hibernate through winter! There are plenty of things to do warmly in and around the Capital Region to help shake off the wintertime sluggishness.
Let's start in Saratoga Springs. Forget about the track, SPAC, and Yaddo until summertime. Give some of these warm inside activities a try to forget about the world outside...
Winter has finally decided to act like its normal self. And that's fine -- good even. The cold and gray can help us appreciate the warmth and green of summer.
But sometimes winter can be hard to take. So with that in mind, here's a checklist for successful wintering...
This question is from Greg. But we'll blockquote (because tradition):
I need a to get a new winter hat. My old hat -- which has served faithfully through many winters -- is finally wearing out. Also: It's, umm, really not good looking. (It's started to elicit the "You're really going to keep wearing that?" look from my wife.)
Ideally, I like to find something that will cover my ears. And something that won't get soaked in wet snow is another plus. I'm willing to trade dorkiness for warmth. But getting something that a least nods slightly toward having any sense of style wouldn't hurt.
So, ideas on what sort of hat I should get and/or where to get it?
Got a suggestion for Greg -- event a type of hat, if not a specific hat? Please share!
With winter approaching, we found this interesting: It's an Atlantic article by Kari Leibowitz -- who's in a PhD program for social psychology at Standord -- about her research into how people in Tromsø, Norway (inside the Arctic Circle) keep their spirits up during the long, dark winter.
One way is that they embrace the concept of koselig (Norwegian word for "cozy") and revel the chance sit by the fire and snuggle in blankets.
Another way: mindset -- specifically they just don't think of winter as something through which to suffer. A clip:
... I also believe the cultural mindset of Tromsø plays a role in wintertime wellness. I found myself the happy victim of mindset contagion after Fern told me she refused to call the Polar Night the mørketid, or "dark time," preferring instead to use its alternative name, the "Blue Time" to emphasize all the color present during this period. (Plenty of people with a positive wintertime mindset might still refer to the Polar Night as the "dark time," but Fern's comment was indicative of one of the ways she purposefully orients herself towards a positive wintertime mindset.) After hearing this, I couldn't help but pay more attention to the soft blue haze that settled over everything, and I consciously worked to think of this light as cozy rather than dark. And rather than greeting each other with complaints about the cold and snow, a common shared grumble in the U.S., my Norwegian friends would walk or ski to our meet-ups, arriving alert and refreshed from being outdoors, inspiring me to bundle up and spend some time outside on even the coldest days.
We would say this generally matches our own experience upstate. The more we embrace winter -- and get out and do things -- the better it seems. Few things can put you back in a good frame of mind during February like an evening skate on the frozen pond.
Autumn has arrived and that means that curling season is near.
Curling? Yeah, curling. You know, that sport in which people slide stones down a sheet ice while other people furiously sweep the path of the stone with brooms. It's an Olympic sport -- and a wintertime way to get together with other people.
If you're curl curious, the Albany Curling Club has a free open house at its facility off Schoolhouse Road this Saturday (October 10, 10 am-4 pm) and Sunday (October 11, noon-4 pm). You'll have a chance to try out curling (bring clean sneakers so you can go on the ice) and check out the place.
The Schenectady Curling Club's fall open house was last weekend (we dropped the stone on that). But its offering beginners' curling classes tonight (October 7) and Friday (October 9) that are open to anyone for $15 each night. (The cost of the classes is deductible from your membership fee should you decide to join the club.)
So what's a curling club like? Casey wrote about visiting the Schenectady Curling Club a few years back: "Overall, going to the curling match was... relaxing. I like the idea of a sport that is tight-knit, informal (in some leagues), and friendly. The players laugh, joke around and, sometimes, drink a beer while they're playing (though only from cans, glass isn't allowed on the ice)."
And here's Jess writing about her experience trying out curling at the ACC.
By the way: Curling has some great vocabulary -- bonspiel, kizzle kazzle, keen ice, and so on.
We need to talk.
After thinking about this for a long time, we've decided it's time to break up.
It was a hard decision to make. But we think this will be the best for everyone.
I have spent most of this winter avoiding the cold and staying indoors. But there is a different way: Some people actually embrace the frigid weather and enjoy activities that are winter-specific.
I've always marveled at the groups of people ice fishing out on solid lakes and rivers. To a novice like myself, the whole thing seems very mysterious and dangerous.
So, naturally, it was time to go ice fishing.
"Miss Pearl" is AOA's advice columnist. She offers advice here now and then. Got a question for Miss Pearl? Send it along to MissPearl |at| alloveralbany |dot| com.
Dear Miss Pearl:
We have this one couple that never shovels their sidewalk. In the handful of years we have lived there, I think I have seen them shovel the sidewalk maybe once. The snow just piles up and gets trampled down. By the end of the winter it looks like a glacier or ice skating rink or something. It is so bad that a lot of people just end up walking in the street around their stretch of sidewalk.
As part of its monitoring of Hudson River ice during the winter the US Coast Guard posts reports about river ice conditions online. We like to check in on these reports now and then because every week or so they include aerial photos of the frozen river.
Here's the latest aerial survey, from February 6, that includes photos from New York Harbor all the way up to Troy. One of the photos is above -- it's the Hudson River at Albany, looking north.
Two other large format photos from the survey, of the river at Troy and Castleton, are after the jump.
This past weekend in the Times Union, Keshia Clukey had an interesting article about riding along with one of the Coast Guard ice breakers that work up and down the Hudson River.
Earlier on AOA: Winter on the Hudson, a long time ago
Even if you love winter, mid-February can be the time when you've just had enough.
That's OK, it's totally natural. You're just experiencing one of the emotional stages of winter.
The doldrums of winter have settled in. I've got cabin fever, and these long, freezing days are starting to wear on me.
Winter is great in that I can snuggle in front of the fire in fleece-lined leggings, ugly (but cozy) sweaters, and put whiskey in my tea with reckless abandon.
But the best way to beat winter is from the inside out. I've been wondering what other cooks in the area have been eating to get through the winter. So I asked! Here's what winter tastes like a handful of kitchens around the Capital Region.
Monday afternoon ahead of the forecasted icy, snowy apocalypse we snapped a few "before" pics. And then Tuesday afternoon we snapped a few after pics.
Mix to combine, and... today's moment(s) of winter, sliding between before and after.
The long stretch of cold weather this month and (until now) lack of snow has made for some good outdoor ice skating.
There are a bunch of spots around the Capital Region for ice skating, both outside and inside. We recently updated AOA's map/listing of those places with information for this winter -- check it out.
And if you know of a place that should be on the list, please let us know in the comments.
This question comes from us, because... brrr...
When it's really cold, the answer for clothing is almost always: more layers. But what about your hands?
Even though they make you look like your four years old, we are staunch fans of mittens because they do a better job of keeping your fingers warm. But mittens aren't good if you're trying to do much with your hands: zip things, pick up dog poop, operate a mobile or camera.
In that past we've tried a very thin pair of gloves under mittens. That was warm, but also bulky and sort of clumsy.
So... Thoughts on leveling up in the glove game? Types of hand wear, materials, styles? Are those finger gloves with the mitten flap (or whatever it's called) worth a try? How do you keep your hands warm?
Earlier on AOA: What sort of winter coat(s) should I buy? And where?
From the how-cold-is-it file: It's been cold enough to freeze (part of) the Cohoes Falls.
We took a minute Friday afternoon to gawk at the partially frozen falls.
Here are a few more pics.
Check out this ice castle built in Albany's Washington Park in 1888. It's via the collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art, which posted the photo on its FB page Thursday.
The "ice palace of considerable size," as it was described at the time, was constructed in mid January of 1888 at the corner of Madison and Lake avenues east of what was then (and still is) the tennis grounds for a winter carnival.
We get a little mesmerized by the bubbles caught in lake ice -- especially on sunny day as the low sun seems to almost illuminate the ice from below. This pic is from Buckingham Pond in Albany Thursday. The frozen scenes remind us of something astronomical (tiny galaxies!).
That feeling of something strange and big is enhanced by the otherworldly sound the lake ice makes as its huge sheets crack and vibrate in the warm sun. It's concurrently fascinating and a bit unsettling.
Clearly thinking ahead for the next few months, Rebecca emails:
The counterpoint to Summer Outdoor/patio dining: Wondering about any area restaurants that have fireplaces for some cozy indoor dinners on a cold night? Thanks.
There are definitely spots with fireplaces.
So, got a favorite place for cozy dining -- with fireplace or without? Please share!
Where are the best sledding hills? I know of the public golf courses in Albany and Troy, and there's another hill (privately owned by a family southwest of Albany?) but how about something further north in the Saratoga region?
I'm itching to grab a lunch tray and feel like a little kid again!
This topic came up a handful of years ago, and there were handful of answers that pretty much all focused on Troy and Albany. In part, we suspect -- because they have some good spots, like Capital Hills in Albany and Frear Park in Troy (as Christina mentions).
Got a suggestion? Please share!
It's December, which means we are officially into holiday party time. I know that you're not looking forward to endless crudités and cubed cheese. Let's be honest. It's all about the holiday cocktail.
Here at All Over Albany we recognize the importance of a good festive drink. That's why we asked five local bars to create the perfect holiday cocktail. To make things even more interesting, we requested that each beverage contain at least one ingredient local to the Capital Region.
We brought along some tasters to give their opinion, roped in designated drivers, and headed off to try the five festive creations.
Holly Greene was having a rough day.
She had been out grocery shopping and was lugging her packages home, trudging back and forth from the car to the house. In the snow. She was tired and frustrated. Then something happened that changed not only her day, but her art, and, a little bit, her world view.
Holly caught a glimpse of a snowflake that had landed on her jacket. A tiny, perfect snowflake.
"It was just so perfectly formed," she says, "that it stopped me in my tracks."
The Saratoga Springs-based photographer grabbed her camera and focused in on it the best she could. The result was the first of many photos for the artist and wedding photographer who now bills herself as The Snowflake Photographer.
Holly tore herself away from last week's November snowstorm to talk about the art, science, and philosophy of the snowflake.
The annual Siena holiday poll included two (well, three) winter questions this year:
As you think about winter, which of the following two statements is closer to your opinion
I dread it. The holidays may be enjoyable, but I can't stand the darkness, the cold and the ice and snow take a toll on me - 36 percent
It may be cold but it is a special time of year. I look forward to winter sports, sitting by a fire, catching up on reading, putting on my winter clothes and all the holidays and events the season provides - 60 percent
And thinking specifically about snow, would you describe yourself more as
Someone that gets excited about snow coming and looks forward to enjoying the related activities and its quiet beauty - 43 percent
Someone that figures out how to endure it, get it cleared away and wouldn't be upset if we had very little of it - 55 percent
The only demographic group that include majority excited about snow (beyond the margin of error): households with kids.
Oh, and that third winter question asked people how much snow they thought we'd be getting this winter. Considering that trained meteorologists have trouble with that question, maybe they should have just asked people to pick a number between 1 and 100.
SRI says the poll was conducted November 3-17 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 points.
TC emails with a timely question:
Since it is getting close to winter time, I want to go to a place to get my all season tires switched over to my snow tires. However, I have noticed that in this area and in general that it is very hard to find a good, reputable place that offers a reasonable price on tire changeovers. I recall that I could get these same tires switched over at a mechanic about 5 years ago for around 40 bucks easily. These days, I am often quoted at $90-100+ (especially at chain stores) for this same exact service completed on the same car.
I would love to hear where your readers go to get their tires changed over at a reasonable price and if they can suggest any good (especially mom and pop) establishments that do a good job at changing over tires and don't charge a fortune for it.
We're also curious to hear people's thoughts about snow tires in general -- we know some people swear by them, others seem less convinced.
Got suggestion for TC, and/or thoughts on snow tires? Please share!
So this winter has been, for many people, something less than pleasant. And the ice/snow storm this week -- the second week of March -- is dragging out the frozen frustration. But it could be worse. A lot worse.
This same week 126 years ago, Albany and the rest of the Northeast were hit with The Great Blizzard of 1888. Also known as "The Great White Hurricane," the Nor'easter dumped many feet of snow through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Masschusetts.
The blizzard by which all others are measured. Light snow began around 3 PM on Sunday the 11th, accumulating to near 3" by midnight. The snow intensified overnight and there was 18" on the ground by daybreak on Monday the 12th. Moderate to heavy snow continued throughout the day accumulating to 33" by midnight. Snow continued on and off through Tuesday the 13th, adding roughly another foot, until finally ending around 3 AM on the 14th. Total snowfall for the storm was 46.7", but the drifts were significantly higher.
The city of Albany was virtually shut down. There were no coal deliveries, and thus, no heat. Doctors were unable to make house calls, and it took many days to clear the snow off of country roads to make them passable. At the time it was called the "worst storm in living memory," and it still holds the distinction of the worst winter storm on record in many areas of the northeast.
Those 46.7 inches of snow are the single-storm record for Albany, and not by a little bit. The storm with the next highest total -- March 13-14, 1993 -- piled up "just" 26.6 inches of snow.
Thanks almost entirely to that storm, Albany recorded more than 50 inches of snow in March of 1888. That was almost half the total for that entire winter -- which, at 110 inches, is the second snowiest on record.
By the way: As of the end of Wednesday, Albany was at 65.9 inches of snow for this winter -- that's about 14 inches more than the typical total by this point. [NWS]
photo: "27 N. Pearl, Blizzard of '88," from the Morris Gerber Collection via the Albany Institute of History and Art.
We spotted these ducks just hanging out outside this Troy laundromat, and it looked a little bit like they were waiting for their clothes to finish drying.
It kind of quacked us up.
We've had a lot of opportunity to think about snow this winter -- more than 63 inches of opportunity so far. And like those people in the Arctic who may (or may not) have hundreds of words of snow, we've been thinking about all the different types of snow -- and what to call it.
So we've compiled a list. Got suggestions? We'd love to hear 'em.
Be sure to bundle up out there. We hear the inside of a tauntaun is rather smelly.
You know that snow that ends blocking the sidewalk where at street crossings? The crusty, icy mountain ranges with narrow footprint shaped passages? What are those called?
We were thinking about this the other day while climbing over one of the snowy barriers. They're pretty much everywhere this time of year. And we figure there's gotta be a specific term for them. And if not, maybe it's time to coin one.
So, what's the word for that snow?
Earlier on AOA: That frozen slush on the bottom of the car
Something to toss out when someone brings up Olympic bobsledding over the next few weeks (because that will happen, obviously): bobsled racing started in Albany.
So says historian and bobsled expert Christopher Lindsay, who's scheduled to give a talk at the Fort Orange Club February 8 about the first bobsled races. Lindsay, a former deputy executive director of the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation, says bobsleds were first used in the lumber business to haul trees. Eventually someone figured out they could be used to transport people -- and quickly -- down hills.
Just before spring arrives the streets will be rolled up and soaked in water so as to remove the accumulated salt.
Like the way salt cod is prepared.
Odd thing we noticed this morning: While passing a steaming storm sewer grate, it looked like the steam had frozen overnight on the grass next to the grate. The crystals had formed very delicate tree-like structures. Let's hear it for fractals.
Anyway, it kind of us made us smile that these tiny, beautiful winter "plants" were growing from a sewer.
Comment's been drawn, and the person emailed!
It's January. The holidays are over. Spring is a solid 2-3 months away. It's just... so... gray.
We're setting this up as an Ask AOA question, but it's from the Editors -- who both agreed today they could use some new ways to shake off January blah. So...
How do you shake off the winter gloom?
Maybe you have some suggestions -- things you do around this time of year, maybe local places or activities that help cheer you up. Suggestions are appreciated.
And because one of the things that cheers us up is giving stuff away, we'll give one person who offers a suggestion a $25 gift card to Crisan in Albany. We'll just a draw a person at random from the suggestions.
Important: To be in the pool for the gift card, you have to submit your suggestion by noon on Thursday, January 16. Please use an email address that you check regularly so that we can contact you. The commenter drawn at random will be contacted by noon on Friday, and must respond by noon on the following Monday, January 20.
Snowshoeing, skiing, pond skating -- all fun things to do during the winter, and good ways to get out of the house. But you know what: Sometimes in the deepest part of winter you just want to stay inside, wrapped up in a blanket on the couch, and hibernate. Preferably with some good TV to watch.
We would argue the best hibernation TV is made up of series that can be block (or binge) watched. So here are a handful of our suggestions. It's just a few shows, so we're hoping that you'll add some of your favorites in the comments. One of your faves could be totally new to someone else -- and become a new favorite for them.
So, please share!
One of our favorite new(ish) websites is The Sweethome, a testing/review/recommendation site for home products. (It's from the same people behind The Wirecutter.) What makes the site so good? Well, they pour a bunch of time and effort into reviewing products to find the one they think is the best, and then explain their choice in detail.
So we were interested see The Sweethome's recommendations for snow shovels, out today, the result of "over 25 hours of research (most of which was spent reading studies on shoveling ergonomics) as well as 19 total man hours of actual snow shoveling." Its pick isn't that surprising -- it also happens to be our snow shovel of choice -- but their recommendation of an aftermarket secondary handle for the shovel caught our eye.
From Doug Mahoney's recommendation of the Stout Backsaver secondary handle:
But while the True Temper is a good shovel in its own right, adding the Stout Backsaver really made a big difference. And not just for the True Temper; you can add one of these to just about any shovel you already have lying around for an instantly and vastly improved shoveling experience for about $13. As one tester put it, "this thing can turn any old piece-of-sh*t shovel into a decent tool." After testing was completed, everyone in the focus group asked where they could purchase one.
The whole review is worth reading/skimming if you shovel a fair amount of snow -- it includes discussions of different models, ergonomics, and a few interesting snow shoveling facts.
For obvious reasons, we've been thinking about travel to warm places. So, as we've done in years past, we figured it'd be fun to see where we could get the most degrees for our airfare dollar.
As you well know, the key to staying warm in very cold weather is layering. But in these cold, competitive times are you willing to stand idly by while your co-workers or neighbors out layer you?
No, you are not. To that end, here is a competitive layering metric to help you accurately score the way you've deployed your winter clothing.
A high score will definitively prove you have out layered the crowd. And that you're warm.
It appears that winter has found its self respect and is intent upon providing the proper upstate snowy experience this season. And good for winter -- we've been thinking lately that it had lost its way.
That means we should reacquaint ourselves with the many aspects of the snowy winter. Some are obvious -- yes, it can be pretty, and yep it can make travel a hassle. But other moments of the snowy season are underrated.
Here are a bunch of those underrated things that occurred to us on this snowy afternoon. And if you have some in mind, please share.
I moved to Albany in September and am looking for some suggestions of must-do winter activities in the capital region (art, cultural events, outdoor activities, etc). Very broad ask, I know, but I don't even know what the options are!
First off: Welcome!
Second: You might be surprised by how much there is to do during the winter here, especially if you're willing to layer up and head outside.
We'll start with one suggestion: You should go ice skating at the Empire State Plaza (tentative opening date this year is November 29). Sure, it gets kind of crowded, but it's fun to be outside in a public space during the winter with a bunch of other people also having fun. And if you can swing by after work, it's a nice end to the workday -- somehow the stress of all those TPS reports starts to fade after a few turns on the ice.
That's just one suggestion. There's a bunch of other stuff. So, got a suggestion for Mik? Please share!
Ellie asks via Twitter:
Hey @alloveralbany do you know of any cheap indoor tracks for running? Free would better, or no contact if paid membership needed.
It can be hard to stay active during the winter. And while running on a treadmill can be OK, it's not the same as actually running and getting somewhere -- even if you're just running in circles.
So, got a suggestion for Ellie? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: Owning Winter: Running in the cold
I live in Albany. Do you or your readers know any places where I can rent a wood splitter locally? Bonus points for contact info to go along with the name!
Or, if not that, maybe there's a rent-a-lumberjack service? We hear they're O-K. (Haha ... Respect the flannel.)
Got a suggestion for Sean? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: Where to buy firewood?
A question from AOA Greg. Let us now self-blockquote:
It is time to bid farewell to my winter coats. My beloved 3/4 length corduroy coat is frayed and falling apart (fail wale). And my LL Bean parka -- which has protected me against many a winter, much lake effect snow, and frequent blustery dog walks -- has finally succumbed to catastrophic zipper failure and other indignities of old age. Also: it makes me look like (even more of) an enormous dork.
So I'm looking for a new coat. Or coats. I'd like to get away with just buying one. But I suspect I should probably replace both types. I need a coat for work around town, but also long walks with the dog and other winter outside activities (I don't ski).
If you have suggestions of where I should shop for a coat, great. But I'm also looking for suggestions of what type or brand of coats. Do you have a favorite winter coat type? What about brand? Should I re-submit myself to the warm, reliable dorkiness of another LL Bean model? Or is there something better? (Please say there is.)
So, got a suggestion? Please share. Greg will think warm thoughts about you this winter.
For no other reason than we like the way they look: photos of the traces recently left by ice skates on Albany's Buckingham Pond.
Here's a set of five in large format.
Earlier on AOA: Tiny, frozen bubbles
We have to admit we had a "What?!" moment when we saw this press release from Albany Med today about snowblowers -- you can basically boil it down to: a hand surgeon says you shouldn't stick your hand in a snowblower chute.
It's like a dispatch from the Darwin Awards. Who really needs to hear that?
Well, we decided to look up research on just that topic. And the answer to that question appears to be: people who should probably know better.
From the abstract of a small study by researchers at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, published in the Annals of Plastic Surgery in 2008:
The majority of patients were aware of safety warnings (77.20%) and injured themselves with the machine running (82.35%) resulting in multiple digit injury (2.0 on average) on the dominant hand (68.18%).Operator inexperience, low operator intelligence, and excessive alcohol consumption do not seem to contribute to injury. Instead, significant experience, older machines, short durations of use before injury, characteristic weather patterns, and underlying misperceptions about snowblower design and function typically set the stage for injury.
And once a snowblower chops off your fingers, there's not a lot that can be done. Said the study's lead author, Dr. Daniel Master, to HealthDay in 2009: "The injuries need to be prevented, because they're not the type of injuries that can be reconstructed ... even if you have the amputated part, it's essentially useless."
There are reportedly about 3,000 of these sorts of injuries every year. In 2010, a hand surgeon in Pennsylvania told the Morning Call that he performed six snowblower-related amputations -- in one afternoon. "Happens every storm. It's as predictable as people blowing their fingers off on the Fourth of July."
Apparently the injuries often happen when wet snow clogs the machine and someone sticks a hand in the chute to unclog the snow, allowing stored tension to spin the blades, then... well, you can probably guess.
So: don't stick your hand in a snowblower chute. Use a broom handle or something. Just not one of your appendages.
We're having an actual yes-it's-cold-and-snowing winter this year. And during a few recent stretches of especially cold weather, we've wondered how people who work outside keep warm.
So we asked them.
Buckingham Pond, Albany, February 1. ( large format)
Maybe there will be some good skating this winter.
Earlier on AOA: Capital Region Ice Skating
Breaking: it's cold out there. The highs for both Wednesday and Thursday are forecasted to be in the teens, and the lows sub-zero.
So that got us thinking about some historical context, and the coldest days on record...
A bit of recycling this morning, at the request of Jennifer:
I think @alloveralbany needs to post the Pick Up The Poop flowchart again. People, seriously, BE RESPONSIBLE & pick up after your dogs.
It's obviously a difficult question for some people, so this should help.
When I first found out my roommate and her family were curlers, I pictured a large, strange rink with equally large men quietly moving around the ice while you sat in a cold seat, cheering them on without really understanding what they were doing.
But in reality, going to the Schenectady Curling Club to watch a game is just like watching from the comfort of home. You get to watch other people physically exert themselves while you sit in a warm viewing room with a fully stocked bar, leather couches, and a fire place.
I love sports.
One of our favorite things to do during the winter is ice skate. So we've put together a listing/map of ice skating spots around the Capital Region.
The listing includes outdoor spots -- in the event we ever have a real winter again -- as well as indoor facilities, so you have a place to lace the skates no matter the condition of the outdoor ice. There are 20 places on the list -- all around the Capital Region -- so you're probably not far from at least one of them.
Know of a spot not on the list that we should include? Please share. We'll add it to the list.
I have a house with a fireplace, but I'm not a lumberjack and we don't back-up to any forests. I wince at the sight of $5 for 3 twigs of firewood being sold at local grocery stores. Does anyone know where I could buy decent firewood in bulk and have it delivered for a reasonable price?
Sean's not a lumberjack and he's OK. So, got a suggestion for him? Please share!
The ice skating rink at the Empire State Plaza will open this Friday (November 23), the state Office of General Services announced today.
The rink will be open seven days a week from 11 am-8 pm. It's free to skate.
Skate rentals are $3 for kids under 12 / $4 for adults. Each Friday this season will include free skate rentals, thanks to sponsorship by Hannaford. OGS says the lockers and skate rental are now on the plaza level next to the rink.
It's great to see the rink returning for another year. Public spaces are better with people. And it's fun! We went skating a few times after work last winter -- it helps you let go of the hassles from the day.
Thinking ahead, Valerie asks via Twitter:
Have you guys done a piece on snow removal services on Ask AOA? I'd love to contract someone for the winter.
I'm actually wondering if anyone does a pay-upfront service where they come as much or as little for a single, flat rate.
This is probably a good time to start getting something like this lined up. Because if you wait until it snows (which, let's face it, could be next week), it will probably be a lot harder.
So, have a snow removal service suggestion for Valerie? Please share! And please include details about the arrangement, if you can -- you know, ballpark price, flat fee, per-visit, whatever.
Looking ahead to winter, Kara emails:
Is there a place in the Capital District where one can visit a steam room? There was an unfortunate leak in my building that requires the 24/7 running of a de-humidifier. It is helpful in drying the water in the walls, but it also has resulted in early onset dry winter skin. I shudder at the idea of the long cold months ahead where this is a constant battle. I can't help but to think how great it would be to have some epidermal therapy in a steam room if there is such a place one could visit from time to time...
Got a suggestion for Kara? Please share!
Sometimes your inner six year old just wants to bundle up and go out and play in the snow. But this year, that inner six year old is probably a little disappointed. Finding snow to play in is a little more challenging than usual. You've got to go where they make it -- which often means you need to be a skier to enjoy it.
But I've compiled a list of a few places where you can find snow,not just for skiing, but for tubing. Yep, there are a few weeks left to go tubing. You'll find a list of places to go after the jump, along with a little about what to expect from each place.
Yesterday's wet snow was excellent footprint snow.
Speaking of "footprint snow": You know that claim that the Inuit have hundreds of words for snow? Myth.
When snow accompanied Halloween I was ecstatic. Fall masquerading as winter.
Soon it would lower its disguise and candy corn would give way to candy canes. Skiing and sledding and snowmen were sure to follow.
To love winter you must learn to play in it, or so I've been told.
After testing the theory over the past I-don't-know-how-many-winters, I've become a believer.
The problem is always talking yourself into a little faith. Talking yourself into bundling up and leaving the warmth of your house.
Winter is coming. Winter is coming. Winter is ...
This winter has been... unusual. November was really warm. And December? Yeah, not really that cold, either.
But the most conspicuously unusual thing about this winter is the snow. Or, rather, the fact that there's been almost no snow. It's like winter is falling down on the job.
So, what's going on? We bounced a few questions to WNYT meteorologist Jason Gough -- and he had answers about historical snow totals, the subtropical jet stream, rare weather, the unreliability of weather memory, and his prognostication for how much snow we might end up with...
Now that the ESP rink is open, where can I get my figure skates sharpened?
If you can't remember the last time you had your skates sharpened -- and you've been skating on them -- it might be time.
Got a suggestion for Nancy? Please share!
The ice skating rink at the ESP re-opened this past Saturday for the first time since 2008. So, of course, we had to take a few turns.
Here are a few details if you decide to go. (And you totally should.)
Explains FSC editor Christina:
Coined 'from scratch holidays', we wanted to dedicate most of November & December's content to various seasonal recipes for your holiday table, edible gifts and reflections on the holiday season as a whole. We have more to come, including radish toasts, DIY coffee creamer, beef jerky, dark chocolate covered candied orange peels, Kahlua marshmallows & hot chocolate set, fudge, cheese plate "class", free printable gift & canning labels and much much more! But first we have something exciting to share.
A few of the bits that caught our eye: the All Good Bakers recipe for cinnamon buns, as shared by Britin; and how to grow windowsill garlic greens, as explained by Dianna.
Growing up in Miami there was a well-worn gripe about the weather, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity."
For me the challenge of making it through an Albany winter isn't the cold, it's the dryness.
Cold is easy to combat. Sweaters, heavy wool socks, hats, gloves, jackets, and scarves work well. I just got my first balaclava. But when the temperature dips, instead of turning up the thermostat that just further dries the air, I like to grab my bean pot and simmer a mass quantity of legumes for hours.
Not only does it fill the house with wonderful smells, the long process of simmering liquid on the stove is a great way of replenishing the moisture in the air. And when the beans are done, they are delicious -- and warm you from the inside as well.
Legumes are some of my favorite foods, and they are enjoyed all over the world in a variety of forms. They can be fiery, sweet, pungent, earthy, tart, savory, meaty, creamy or crunchy. They can be the basis of a meal, a side dish, or a topping. Today, I'm sharing three relatively easy bean preparations that reflect this diversity. If you can boil water, and cut up an onion, you should be able to make these.
Now let me take you on a trip to India, Cuba and then back home to the American South.
Winter will be here soon, whether you like it or not. Rather than be a passive complainer, make to the choice to grab winter before it grabs you. Over the next few weeks we'll have a series of posts about how to make winter better/easier/more fun. You should own winter, not the other way around.
First up: Martin's list of items you should have for your car, house, and person. He is both a hardy Northeasterner and the kind of guy who stops to help people get their cars unstuck from the snow. Now is a good time to get these things organized -- before you actually need them.
We're not sure this is really happening. It's October -- and we've had to pull out the Icy, Snowy Apocalypse Meter.
This weekend's forecast: messy. The NWS has issued a winter storm warning for the area, and says there's a possibility of "major societal impact." We understand that's forecaster-speak for: there are a lot of the leaves on the trees, we're going to get a lot of heavy snow, be prepared to kiss your power goodbye.
The paraphrased forecast:
Saturday: Rain and snow. Accumulation up to 2 inches. Highs in the upper 30s.
Saturday night: Snow. Additional accumulation up to 5 inches. Lows around 30. #$%^&@&
Sunday: Cloudy, then sunny. Highs in the mid-40s.
If you're counting, that's a possible 7 inches of snow.
The amounts in this storm could end up being less than impressive, and it may end up melting relatively quickly. But with those temps, the snow is bound is to be wet and heavy, which could be a serious pain. So we're tagging this as a solid "Winter's Making an Effort." Even though it's not actually winter, yet.
* Credit to WNYT's Jessica Layton for tagging the storm "Winterween."
Necessary note: You should take this all with an enormous bag of rock salt. AOA has absolutely no weather forecasting expertise. At all. That said, the world will probably not end because of some snow (despite how much they say it will on TV). Most likely.
Yep, there's snow in the forecast for Thursday. From the National Weather Service:
Thursday Night: Rain and snow showers, becoming all snow after 11pm. Low around 29. North wind between 6 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
Thursday sounds generally unpleasant. Highs in the 40s. Rain. Then snow. So it goes.
Anyway, the question came up the other day about what's the average day for the snow of the season around here. Here's the first, last, most, and least...
Jen from Hounds on the Hudson emails:
I'm gearing up for another long winter outdoors and need to get my wool coat relined and boots resoled. Can anyone recommend a good dry cleaners and/or cobbler in the area?
If there's anyone who needs to make sure their coats and boots are in shape for winter, it's the people at a dog walking company.
So, anyone have suggestions for Jen? Please share!
Earlier on AOA: Suggestions for a good seamstress?
Ironically, as I sit down to write about how great this part of the country is for having four seasons, there's a hurricane spinning out there with the Northeast in her cross hairs. C'est la vie.
When the warm weather arrives in Albany it seems like it's taken YEARS to get here, so each year, as summer approaches, I promise to have more BBQs, see more crap films at the drive-in, and make more road trips to the mountains. But it's the end of the summer, and, as is often the case, I'm left with more than a few regrets.
I may have cursed the frozen rain as it fell Sunday night, and the snow as it covered the ground yesterday morning, but once the sun came out I was praising the beauty of what was left behind.
Sure, Albany and the other cities in the Golden Snowball competition are getting owned by Syracuse and its epic 173.5 inches of snow this year. Outlier season or not, the Salt City should dominate -- it averages 121 inches a year (lake effect!).
So let's level the snow field a bit. How would the upstate New York competition for snowiest winter stack up if the cities were competing against their typical totals? The table above shows the results.
OK, so Syracuse still crushes. But look at Albany in the #2 spot. Taste the cold reality of third place, Binghamton. Get in line, Rochester. And Buffalo, dude, you're better than this.
By the way: This season's total of 83.6 now ranks
12th 15th on the list of recorded snowfall seasons.
Data via New York State Golden Snowball Award. Totals as of end of March 7.
Now that February is (thankfully) over, we figured it's a good time to check in on the snowfall total for this winter (so far): 77.5 inches.
That's relatively high. During a typical winter we've usually only had about 49 inches by this point. This season's total now ranks at #18 overall (it's our understanding we don't get a trophy until we reach the top 3 -- it's like the Olympics).
And worry not -- your recent whining about this winter did have merit. The NWS reports the combined total from January and February this year -- 64.5 inches -- is the highest Jan-Feb total on record in Albany.
By the way: the snowiest winter on record here: 1970-71, at 112.5 inches.
Earlier on AOA: The Giant Snowman of Guilderland
Here's something new: We're pulling out the AOA soap box each Sunday for people to praise, complain, suggest, joke, or make an observation about things they see going on in the Capital Region.
New Yorkers, and Northeasterners in general, have a reputation for being a comparatively unfriendly sort, leaving some to speculate that our wintery climate is to blame for our frosty personalities.
Personally, I think it's a bunch of hogwash. All of it.
A few months back I asked everyone if they had tips on how to keep my hands from getting all dry and cracked this winter. And you did! There were a bunch of suggestions (you might even call it a handful).
Well, it's mid-February now and I'm happy report that my hands are in good shape -- the best they've been in many winters. And I have you to thank. So give yourself a hand!
In the spirit of lending a hand (last one, probably), here's what's worked for me...
Jeff emailed us the other day: "I just wanted to let you guys know that my neighbor built a snowman that is about a 1 1/2 stories high in his front yard."
Uh, what? We have to see this.
So we took a swing through Jeff's neighborhood in Guilderland. And, yep, that's a huge snowman -- easily the biggest we've ever seen.
As it happens, the Gazette also heard about the frosty giant and talked with the builder. As Scott Leininger said in the story published today: "We just decided to build a snowman bigger than anyone else in town."
There are more photos after the jump.
The Saranac Lake Ice Palace really is a sight to see. Thousands of blocks of ice weighing in between 400 and 800 pounds a piece were used to build the structure and luckily, it's no hands-off exhibit.
The public is welcome to come in and sit on the ice thrones (the theme this year is "medieval"), climb the stairs, take photos with the animal ice carvings, and squeeze through the small tunnels and mazes.
It was packed on Sunday -- the last day of the carnival, but the word is that the ice palace will be up (pending melt) until the end of February.
Here's more information and videos about the construction of the palace -- and a history of the carnival.
More photos after the jump.
We spotted this parking job at Crossgates Commons the other night and it made us a laugh a bit.
A snow-covered mountain with the moon in the background -- or a parking lot snow pile?
I have to admit: I feel a little bad for Albany's bench statues in the winter.
It's cold. They're underdressed. No one stops to visit them. They get buried in drifts. Shouldn't somebody at least bring them a scarf?
I stopped by recently to see how they're liking this snowy winter, and maybe cheer up their bronzey souls a bit.
We've had our share of icicles at the Lerner household this winter -- and all the work involved with removing them, breaking up ice dams, and removing feet of snow from the roof has taken much of our free time. And we know we're not alone.
The Capital Region has seen its share of home, barn and sports dome collapses because of snow. The press had a field day with roof rake stories. And James recently asked for recommendations for contractors for roof snow removal.
So, I talked with local home inspector Lawrence McGann of Spire Inspections for some winter home maintenance tips... because belaying my husband as he digs away at snow on our roof was fun, at first.
If it seems like we've gotten a lot of snow this winter, it's probably because... we have. This year's count is about 50 percent ahead of a typical year. And this season's snow piles might feel especially tall because last year was a down year. (graph above)
Despite the snowy resurgence, we're probably not headed for the record -- which is 112.5 inches, set in 1970-71 (we came close in 2002-2003 with 105.4). But a top 20 finish is possible -- we're only about 17 inches behind 1987-88 for #20 spot in the rankings.
Data from the National Weather Service. Totals as of the end of February 7.
You might have noticed: There's a lot of snow outside.
Most of us shovel the walks and do our darnedest to ignore the rest of it. But did you ever wonder: "Hmm, what could I be doing with all this snow?
Here's your answer.
Spotted on Brookline Ave. in Albany. Well, maybe "spotted" isn't the right word -- more like "gaped at" or "cowered under."
The creator of this colossus is local artist Jason Schultz. Jason works in a variety of media -- metalwork, painting, carving. And snow. He builds a mega-sized snowman every year.
Just think: Your yard, too, is an unassembled snowman. Get to it.
A rare occurrence took place on Saturday near Oneonta: kids were waiting in line to do manual labor. It was the annual Hanford Mills Ice Harvest where the public was invited to help the museum fill its ice house.
It's a day of education, but also one of practicality -- the ice that was harvested will be used to make ice cream for Hanford Mills' Fourth of July celebration this summer.
And despite on and off rain, hundreds of people circulated through the grounds to help.
The entire process of harvesting ice is a methodical one and many tools are needed. Here's how it works...
James asks a timely question via the Twitter:
You guys have been very helpful with plumbers, electricians and mechanics. Ideas on good contractors for roof snow removal?
Got a suggestion for James? Please share!
We snapped this pic at Capital Hills a few days ago. It's like a memorial to lost mittens and gloves.
Wednesday is shaping up to be a snow day for many people. Here are few things you might find useful for the day (and the rest of the winter):
Taking care of yourself
+ Stocking up for snow storm (don't forget the Nutella)
You and everyone else
+ Death by icicle (It happens.)
Albany Jane asked a very of-the-moment question today on Twitter:
Where can I get a sled?! (Besides W-Mart)
We've collected some of the answers after the jump -- and if you have suggestions, we'd love to hear them.
Also: Where to go sledding?
As the snow moves in, we hunker down ... to eat. (Because it may be a whole day -- or, gasp, two! -- before you'll be able to easily go to the supermarket.)
Today's the day to stock up on whatever you can't spend two days stuck indoors without. The Price Chopper on Madison Ave in Albany was light on ham steaks this morning, and the crock pot seasoning mixes were pretty well picked over. The bread and milk aisle? Nearly impassable because of all the people and carts.
It made us wonder: What do you stock up on when a storm moves in?
Put some chili in the crock pot and share your answers below.
I'm going to tell you a story about something that didn't happen. But that doesn't mean the story is a sad one.
Peebles Island State Park is one of my favorite Underappreciated Places of the Capital Region. The island, which sits where the Mohawk and Hudson rivers meet, is easy to get to and has a nice little trail. But what makes Peebles so interesting is the views: From the cliffside trail you can see waterfalls, other islands, the waterfronts of the surrounding cities, and factories and other industrial sites, some empty, some humming. And then there's the forest and fauna of Peebles Island itself. Not entirely natural or entirely urban, it's a compelling combination.
Its primary draw, at least this time: The eagles.
The day includes a "polar plunge" into a pool carved out of the frozen lake -- there are some great faces when people hit the water.
photo: Sebastien B
Winter's enthusiastic effort this year has prompted us to consider many issues, among them:
What do you call that wedge of gray, frozen slush that sticks on the bottom of a car behind the wheels?
We've never heard a word for it, but it seemed like one would be useful. For example:
Friend: What are you doing?
You: I'm just kicking the (whatever the word is) off the bottom of the car. I hate that stuff.
So, in search of a name, we asked people on Twitter what's it called. There were many responses...
The snow just keeps coming, and it's still only January.
We've got a lot of winter ahead of us, which means there's plenty of time to learn a new hobby. Maybe you'd like to try a little cross country (aka Nordic) skiing?
If you recently read the post on Lapland Lake, you're probably tempted to go. I have several friends who insist that it's their absolute favorite cross country skiing destination. But if you're a complete novice who'd like to test the snow drifts a little closer to home, you have options...
Flying Pigs is in Shushan, which is about as far north at Saratoga (but, you know, east in Washington County). Farther north, in Glens Falls, the temperature hit -27 at 7 am this morning. And the NWS station in Saranac Lake recorded -36 at 6 am. The temperature in Albany bottomed out at -12 last night.
Earlier: Flying Pigs Farm was featured in NY Mag, as a writer followed a pig from farm to plate.
Ahhhh, winter in the Northeast: feet of fluffy snow one week, inches of painful, crusty sleet and freezing rain the next. You have to be prepared for anything in these parts, which is why I visited the folks at Goldstock's Sporting Goods in Scotia. They've been outfitting the Capital Region with cold weather gear since 1896.
Owner Ladon Roylance and retail employee Lisa Clock took time out of their day to explain to me the art of keeping warm. (Apparently, the soccer socks and NKOTB shirts I used to wear skiing weren't helping me much.)
Technology has come a long way since I was a kid: Goldstock's has vests that heat up, gloves with their own warming finger inserts and a machine that will form fit a ski boot to your foot.
But you don't have to go to such lengths to stay warm. Five principles will keep you properly bundled in the cold...
The skeptic in me wanted to immediately dismiss the authenticity of Lapland Lake's "Finnish" theme. But after taking in the picturesque setting, sampling the Lohilaatlkko (salmon casserole) and hearing cheesy Finnish versions of American pop music playing outside the lodge - I was sold, er myyty.
Not only does Lapland Lake have world-class cross country skiing, but it makes you feel like you've been transported to the Lapland -- just 60 miles from Albany.
The resort is run by former U.S. Olympic cross country skier Olavi Hirvonen and his wife Ann. Olavi's parents are from Finland and he spent quite a few years living there. His passion for skiing and all things Finnish pour out of this place.
If you're thinking about planning a trip, there are a few things to keep in mind (like where to find the reindeer)...
There were a few days this week when it felt like we were shoveling snow constantly.
New AOA associate editor Liz set up a camera as she shoveled her driveway in Niskayuna. You'll see one of the many reasons we're happy she's decided to work with us -- she's a machine!
Update: The snow emergency is ending early "due to the response and cooperation of the residents of the City of Albany." It's officially canceled at 8 am Friday (January 14).
The City of Albany has declared a snow emergency, starting tonight (Wednesday) at 8 pm with parking on the EVEN side of the street. Parking flips to the odd side tomorrow (Thursday) at 8 pm.
As part of the snow emergency, the city also opens up additional parking -- that list is after the jump.
For Albany snow emergency updates The snow emergency hotline is 476-SNOW (7669). You can also now get notifications about snow emergencies in the city via text and email (be sure to customize the alerts, otherwise you'll get a bunch of them).
Snow comes with its own set of chores and activities -- and social obligations. Manners, you might say.
What are they? What rules should we all live by in the winter?
Last year we considered the ethics of the shoveled parking spot. But there are plenty of other ways to be a force for good -- or not -- when the snow start to fall.
Toward that end, we've put together a few guidelines for Capital Region winter etiquette. Because good manners help everyone have a better day, no matter what the weather does.
The rules, after the jump. And we'd love to hear your suggestions.
Update: The projections for snowfall have been revised upward, now to somewhere in the 10 inch range. That pushes this storm solidly into the "Winter's Making an Effort" category.
After sitting the barn for months, the Icy, Snowy Apocalypse Meter gets rolled out twice in the span of a week. We can barely contain our excitement.
Here's the situation, from the (paraphrased) forecast:
Today: Cloudy. Cold. Probably a few flurries.
Tonight: There will be snow, probably late in the night. Maybe something like 3 inches.
Wednesday: More snow. Accumulation of as much as 5 inches.
Wednesday night: Some chance of more snow, but not much. Very nippy. Lows in the mid-teens.
Thursday: Cloudy. Cold.
Here's the deal with this particular apocalypse: two storms are said to be merging on the coast, and the combined storm will Nor'easter its way (yep, we used that as a verb) up the coast. Depending on the track of the storm, we could see a fair amount of snow -- or just a bit. Whatever happens, the farther east and south you go, the better the chances of big totals (that means you, Rensselaer and Columbia counties). Of course, things change -- and if the track turns this way -- get ready to shovel.
All that said, the forecasters seem relatively certain we're just going to be grazed by this one -- ending up with 8 inches at the most. So, we're going to peg this as nearing "Winter's Making an Effort" territory.
Necessary note: You should take this all with an enormous bag of rock salt. AOA has absolutely no weather forecasting expertise. At all. We do, however, think it's funny how every winter storm is treated like the end of the world.
Let's face it: we live in Upstate New York, and we're likely to see plenty of snow in the next two or three months. This time of year it takes considerable willpower for me to resist snuggling under the covers with a book and hibernating until spring.
But that's no way to live! Okay, honestly, it's pretty good for a morning once in a while.
However, since I don't want to creep out of bed on March 20 looking pasty and pudgy and blinking at the unfamiliar sunshine, I try to do winter-only activities for a little outdoor fun. And snowshoeing is great way to start.
This is very exciting. After missing the first significant snowfall of the season because of the winter break, we've towed the Icy, Snowy Apocalypse Meter out of the barn today for the first time this season.
Here's the situation, from the (paraphrased) forecast:
Thursday night: Cold. Maybe some snow, but little accumulation.
Friday: There will be snow. Totals by the end of Friday could range from 4-10 inches.
Saturday: Yep, you guessed it, more snow. But probably not much. Cold, highs below 30.
Sunday: Some chance of snow, but not much. Highs near 30.
The NWS forecast discussion mentions there's a "a lot of uncertainty" with this storm. So we're pegging this storm as just into the "Winter's Making An Effort Category." The high end of the accumulation range -- 10 inches -- is a respectable total. There could be a fair amount of shoveling, and snow emergencies. But, hey, it'll be the weekend -- you probably won't have to dig out before work.
Shovels at the ready, you hardy Northeasteners.
Update: Saratoga Springs has already called a snow emergency, starting at 9 am Friday. [Saratogian]
Necessary note: You should take this all with an enormous bag of rock salt. AOA has absolutely no weather forecasting expertise. At all. We do, however, think it's funny how every winter storm is treated like the end of the world. Also: Ellsass, we're sorry.
The snow will come and the snow will go, but one thing is constant: the need to get the kids out and moving. When sledding, snow forts and skis aren't an option, and when you can't stand losing one more Wii tennis match to your six-year-old, you might need to look elsewhere for a place to let the kids get their wiggles out.
What follows are some indoor activities that'll keep the youngsters -- and yourself - active, no snow (or membership contract) required. Please feel free to add your own suggestions below.
The arrival of actual winter weather this week had us thinking about warmer places -- specifically, about places that are warm in February. Because it's right about that time of the year that we usually become officially sick of winter.
With that in mind, we curiously scanned Southwest's winter fare sale this week for ALB-to-(insert other place) specials. There were a lot of warm-weather options -- but which was the best non-winter value?
So, we did some quick math to determine which spots would get us the most degrees for our airfare dollar.
This question comes directly from AOA Greg:
Every winter the skin on my hands gets really dry, and often cracks. It's uncomfortable, unsightly and generally unpleasant.
I figured this was just an unfortunate quirk of the skin on my hands, but a few people have mentioned recently that the same thing also happens to them each winter.
So, any suggestions for soothing dry winter skin, especially hands? I've tried the general purpose moisturizing lotions like Vaseline Intensive Care -- they don't seem to be up to task.
Tucked into a recent Thruway press release was this juicy bit (emphasis added):
In a continuing effort to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Authority's winter maintenance program, the Albany and Syracuse Divisions will be using renewable sugar beet sourced liquid and salt brine mixture. The mixture will be used as an anti-icing agent in both a direct liquid application in advance of a storm, and in the pretreatment of rock salt. The new material compliments the Authority's widespread use of straight salt brine, which has proven effective and very economical as a pretreatment for rock salt.
The Thruway Authority apparently experimented with products made from sugar beets last winter in the Albany area. It reportedly worked well -- and didn't stain the roads. Midwestern states have been experimenting with beet-derived solutions for a few years now (and Maryland's using it this year, too). [AP/NCPR] [Oneida Dispatch] [USA Today]
OK, so... why sugar beets? (That's one just out of the ground on the right.) The theory is that that that substance derive from the beets lowers the temperature at which the salt solution freezes. (A patent filed in 2000 for using a sugar beet byproduct -- "desugared sugar beet molasses" -- claims the substance remains "flowable" at below-zero temps.) That helps the solution stick to roads and continue working longer, which means less salt is required (good for saving money -- and good for the environment). [USPTO] [UPI] [Duluth News Tribune] [PNAS]
photo: Flickr user mindy.kotaska
The City of Albany's golf course, Capital Hills, has closed for golf for the year. That's sad for golfers... but happy for dog walkers, sledders and cross-country skiers.
After the golf course closes for the season, it basically becomes a giant park. It's one of the best places to walk dogs -- they're allowed to go off-leash, and there's plenty of room to run. On the weekends, there are always a bunch dogs ready to play, but it's not cramped like a dog park.
The course is Otto's favorite place -- maybe out of everywhere.
The course is a beautiful piece of land, rolling hills alongside the Normanskill. Right now, the grass is a deep green and the last few autumn leaves are hanging on the trees. After a snow, it's absolutely peaceful.
Check it out: the City of Albany is now issuing snow emergency alerts via email and text.
The city is using New York State's NY-ALERT system to distribute the updates. The sign-up process for the alerts takes a few steps, but it's relatively easy. Once you have an account, you can customize the alerts by location and type (if you want to know about ship hijackings, there's an option for that). The release says the city will also be distributing road closure info this way, too.
The full release explaining the process is after the jump.
Snow emergency info has been available by calling 476-SNOW (7669). But pushing the updates out via email and text is a good idea.
Greg sent along a gallery of photos from the "snowpocalypse" out in Westerlo. He says he spent the weekend "helping my girlfriend's family dig out from the insane amount of snow that got dumped on them."
Insane is the right word. While the central Capital Region just got slushy rain toward the end of last week, the snow just kept falling in western Albany County. An observation station to the west of Thacher Park recorded snow depths of more than 3.5 feet by the end of last week.
From Greg's description of the gallery:
There's a few pictures of us excavating her brothers car, and some shots of the abandoned barn that collapsed across the street (no cows were hurt). The first picture is of Hartford, CT the same day as I drove back from a work trip.
Other places weren't so lucky -- CBS6 reported that farm animals were killed in two separate barn collapses this past weekend in the hill towns.
If you've ever lived somewhere where you parked on the street, this has almost surely happened to you: you break your back shoveling out your car, run out for a few errands, come back and... someone has now parked in "your" spot. The one you painstakingly cleared.
So, what's the "right" thing in this situation?
Erin emailed this afternoon with a very timely question:
As the snow continued to fall this afternoon, a few of us were discussing sledding. No one seems to have any idea of where to go sledding in the area (aside from the capitol-building-steps-to-state-street fantasy that a lot of people seem to have). Any recommendations??
Off the top of our heads, we'd suggest Capital Hills golf course in Albany. There are some good hills there -- and not too many trees. We've also heard there's some good sledding in Lincoln Park.
But we're guessing you have a bunch of other suggestions -- both for Albany and other locales. Share, please!
The projected snowfall totals for the rest of the week are starting to increase. From the National Weather Service:
Today: mix of rain/snow
Tonight: "New snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible."
Wednesday: "New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible."
Thursday: Chance of precipitation 80 percent. But as the forecast discussion notes for Thursday and beyond, "a high degree of uncertainty remains during this period."
Friday: Chance of precipitation 70 percent.
The forecast continues to include high temps in the mid to upper 30s for the rest of this week.
We're bumping this up to a "Winter's Making an Effort" situation because, while it sounds like any one day this week might not be too bad, the string of them could add up. It seems that a lot will depend on which way temperatures break, elevation and a storm on the coast.
In other words, your wintry mileage will almost certainly vary. And it looks like the snow we're getting will be the wet, heavy kind. So, make sure you car has its snow brush. And bring a shovel.
Necessary note: You should take this all with an enormous bag of rock salt. AOA has absolutely no weather forecasting expertise. At all. We do, however, think it's funny how every winter storm is treated like the end of the world. Also: Ellsass, we're sorry.
Today is gorgeous -- sunny and warm (for February). The rest of this week? Uh, different story.
The paraphrased forecast from the National Weather Service:
Today: Sunny with highs near 40!
Tonight: Not really cold, but snow is expected to start around midnight.
Tuesday: Precipitation in many of its forms: snow, rain, something in between. Highs in the upper 30s. Might have about two inches of accumulation from the night before.
Wednesday: Some snow probable. But also temps in the upper 30s.
Thursday: Chance of snow/rain. Temps in mid-30s.
Friday: Snow? Still not too cold.
OK, so this week could just end up being damp and chilly. Or, if temps drop... we could be in for some real snow because there's almost certainly going to precipitation. In fact, the models are pointing to significant snowfall for the higher elevations (hello, ski slopes).
We're going to hope that this week stays warm and the precipitation stays unfrozen -- but it could be slushy out there. And if we do get snow, it'll probably be heavy. So we're going to peg this as "mildly annoying" on the icy, snowy apocalypse meter.
Necessary note: You should take this all with an enormous bag of rock salt. AOA has absolutely no weather forecasting expertise. At all. We do, however, think it's funny how every winter storm is treated like the end of the world. Also: Ellsass, we're sorry.
By the way: we got a little more than five inches of snow yesterday, according to the National Weather Service.
Look out the window: it's probably snowing. But it appears this is just part of winter's half-hearted effort this year. Here's the paraphrased forecast from the National Weather Service:
Today: It will snow. Accumulation of maybe three inches. High temp around freezing.
Tonight: Probably some more snow, but not much. Maybe an inch.
Wednesday: High temp in the upper 30s. Maybe a bit of snow. Very gusty.
Thursday: More highs in the upper 30s. Maybe some sun. Again, windy.
Friday: About the same.
With that in mind, we're pegging this Icy, Snowy Apocalypse at just a touch above "whatever." If this keeps ups, we're going to have re-calibrate the meter.
By all accounts there is a large, rather snowy winter storm headed east. And also by most accounts, that large storm is projected to just miss us. Again.
Are you feeling lucky?
Because here's the thing: this could either way. We're right on the edge of the action. The storm steams by to the south and we get 3, maybe 4 inches. But the high pressure ridge that's been keeping all the snow off us shifts a little bit -- and hello, 6-10 inches. (If you're headed to NYC or other points south, do wear your boots.)
So we're going to tentatively peg this as a "mildly annoying" icy, snowy apocalypse. But, you know, things change. Bring a shovel.
Here's the paraphrased forecast from the National Weather Service:
Tonight: Not too cold. Maybe a few flakes after midnight.
Wednesday: Not all that cold. Snow starting in the late morning. Maybe 1-3 inches.
Wednesday night: Probably more snow, but not a lot. Windy.
Thursday: Sunny. Again, not that cold -- but windy.
On to the weekend: Partly cloudy/sunny, temps in the low 30s.
Earlier on AOA: A tough year for local snowmen
The set also includes some interesting photos of state police ice divers, who put on a demonstration.
photo: Sebastien B
As cold as this winter's been at times, it has not been snowy. In fact, the Capital Region has gotten just 21.5 inches of snow this season -- that's off more than 18 inches from the usual total by this time of year.
But while we've been relatively snow-free, other parts of the East Coast have been in the middle of Snowmegeddon. So, indulging in a bit of wetterschadenfreude, we thought it would be fun to see how our snowfall totals stack up (or down) to these other normally not-so-snowy climes. (Yes, DC -- that's very unfortunate. Very.)
A few select cities are compared above in the snowman graph. More totals -- with normal totals -- after the jump.
By the way: we've actually noticed lately a few people lamenting the lack of snow this year. Gotta say we didn't see that coming.
Snow is forecasted for Wednesday...
Ski resorts self-report 23 percent more snowfall on weekends; there is no such weekend effect in government precipitation data. Resorts that reap greater benefits from exaggerating do it more. We find little evidence that competition restrains or encourages exaggeration. Near the end of our sample period, we observe a shock to the information environment: a new iPhone application feature makes it easier for skiers to comment on resort ski conditions in real time. Exaggeration falls sharply, and much more at resorts with better iPhone reception. In all, the results suggest that deceptive advertising varies sharply with incentives, both within resorts (over time, at high-frequencies), and across resorts.
[Via Marginal Revolution.]
By the way: As the TU pointed out today, this winter's snowfall totals are about a foot lower so far than average.
The National Weather Service has posted seasonal snowfall data dating back to 1884-85. The least-snowy season on record 1912-1913, which just 13.8 inches. The most? 1970-1971 with 112.5.
Even if this winter hasn't been great for skiing, it's been good for skating.
The Engineers are at #13 Union this Saturday at 7 pm.