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Canoe area ski tour

February 20, 2019
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE CLEAR - The St. Regis Canoe Area is better known for an abundance of paddling opportunities, but in winter, the wilderness is home of some great cross-country skiing trails.

The canoe area is the only its kind in New York, a wilderness area that is managed for its water resources. With that in mind, the SRCA offers almost unlimited paddling opportunities in the summer. And while there are dozens of canoe carries linking the ponds - as well as hiking trails up St. Regis and Long Pond mountains - there are also a number of ski routes that can be easily reached when the ponds are frozen over.

With the thermometer reading five below zero on Sunday morning but a forecast calling for plenty of sun, my friend Jason and I set out from the Station Road parking area and went west on the Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor (groomed and run as a snowmobile trail in the winter) for two-tenths of a mile before we hung a right at the Little Green Pond and Little Clear Pond access.

Article Photos

Jason Labonte, of Saranac Lake, makes his way across Little Clear Pond toward the end of a roughly 6-mile ski trip in the St. Regis Canoe Area.
News photo — Justin?A. Levine

Going north, with Little Green on the left and Little Clear on the right, we skirted around a yellow state gate to officially enter the canoe area, following a small sign for Bone Pond. Following the trail, with Little Green still visible through the leaf-less forest, we made a quick jog to the right to ski down to Bone Pond at just over a mile. It was still below zero, but we ventured out on the ice past the shadows of the trees and warmed our hands in the sun.

After another seven-tenths of a mile, we turned right (left would take us back to the railroad tracks) onto the trail that leads out to Fish and Grass ponds. Going another 0.4 miles, we turned right again to head out toward the southeastern corner of St. Regis Pond.

At 3.15 miles we reached the canoe carry between Little Clear and St. Regis ponds and turned left to go out to the canoe area's namesake pond. Less than two-tenths of a mile later we skied out into the wetland at the end of the pond.

There's a small wooden dock at the edge of the water, and given that the water underneath may have been moving - making for unsafe ice - Jason and I skied through the sparse wetland trees until we could see Long Pond Mountain over the icy surface of St. Regis Pond. By this time, the sun was up and we were getting warm which was a nice change from the frozen fingers we had experience an hour or so earlier.

Heading back the way we came on the trail that connects St. Regis and Little Clear ponds, at the 4-mile mark we skied out into full sunshine on Little Clear Pond. Luckily, a pair of skiers has done the same route the day before, so the trail had been broken out and packed, which made the whole ski pretty pleasant. We eyed a couple sets of ski tracks going out onto the ice and checked it for ourselves before heading roughly southeast on the pond.

Finding the ice safe - always check the ice for yourself - we cut across Little Clear Pond and glanced back to see the snow-covered slopes of St. Regis Mountain, with its newly restored fire tower clearly visible under a bright blue sky. I shed a layer and took off my hat and skied the rest of the way with a bare head and forearms, gladly welcoming a much needed dose of Vitamin D in the middle of winter.

Skiing down the length of Little Clear, we saw the first people we'd encountered all day before we skied up the canoe launch and back out to the rail bed. The parking area was packed, and even though we had just finished a great ski, I couldn't help but be a little jealous of everyone who was still out and about, enjoying the sunshine.



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