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The perfect weather conditions for outdoor ice skating can be tricky

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Finding the right weather conditions for outdoor ice skating can be tricky, but when the stars align, the results can be magical. Last week, a lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York became a huge, glossy skating rink for one perfect afternoon. North Country Public Radio's Amy Feiereisel takes us there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE SKATES SCRAPING)

AMY FEIEREISEL, BYLINE: Lower Cascade Lake is a skinny, mile-long lake that runs along a two-lane mountain road. A group of kids are crisscrossing the ice, bundled to the nines. They're from a boarding school just down the road. Their teacher, Sierra Grennan (ph), says they had to seize the moment.

SIERRA GRENNAN: You need, like, perfect conditions. You need to have really cold weather after not having a lot of snow so you can get this, like, perfect, flat ice.

FEIEREISEL: It's a little windy and some of the kids move cautiously, others skate with wild abandon - fast, backwards. Middle schooler Ziggy Moore (ph) is skating with a hockey stick and puck.

Now, you're pretty comfortable on those skates.

ZIGGY MOORE: I've skated since, like, the age of, like, 3, 4, growing up doing a lot of pond hockey with my dad and brother.

FEIEREISEL: And have you been skating here before?

ZIGGY: This is my first time skating here, definitely not the last. Ice is, like, the best I've ever skated on outside of a rink.

FEIEREISEL: Near the lake's eastern edge, I spot two men skating tight, quick circles around boulders.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE SKATES SCRAPING)

PERRY BABCOCK: Normally we carry hockey sticks. But we're not playing hockey today because we're...

GREG DENNIN: Today was just a skating day.

BABCOCK: Yeah, today's skating day.

FEIEREISEL: Perry Babcock (ph) and Greg Dennin (ph) are both 67. As children, they played hockey together in nearby Lake Placid, and for decades they've been skating this lake ringed by mountains. Babcock says there's a very short window for sunshine.

BABCOCK: You can only skate here from about 1 to 3 because, see, that's the sun. And it drops down into - over the saddle and it's gone.

FEIEREISEL: This winter's skating windows have been brief and fleeting. There's been thaw after thaw, but Babcock says he feels lucky.

BABCOCK: I grew up downstate, and all the pond skating down there is gone. The ponds just don't freeze anymore. So up here, we're still lucky to have it.

FEIEREISEL: Everyone I meet on the ice is wearing hockey or figure skates except for a woman making these big, graceful strides in ski boots attached to long metal blades.

Can you explain what it is you're skating on?

NANCY BATTAGLIA: I am skating on what's called a Nordic blade.

FEIEREISEL: Nancy Battaglia (ph) says Nordic blades are great for in-the-wild skating.

BATTAGLIA: You're able to handle the lumpy-bumpies (ph) a little bit better...

FEIEREISEL: Oh, OK.

BATTAGLIA: ...Than the shorter blades. You can go pretty quick. Be careful of that crack. Don't fall in it. Yeah.

FEIEREISEL: Oh (laughter).

Battaglia steers us towards a patch of black, black ice.

Wow. Oh, my gosh. You look down and it's, like, totally clear with these tiny, little bubbles frozen in there.

BATTAGLIA: It almost looks like balloons. Instead of going up layers of balloons, you know, it's bubbles going down in.

FEIEREISEL: And it's just so clear.

BATTAGLIA: Yeah.

FEIEREISEL: You can look straight down.

We skate west towards the setting sun. Snow is in the forecast for tonight, so tomorrow this lake might be un-skateable. We have to savor this gift now.

For NPR News, I'm Amy Feiereisel on Lower Cascade Lake in Keene, N.Y.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE IRONSIDES' "CHANGING LIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Amy Feiereisel