Warm winter leaves Vermont with less ice cover on lakes, ponds

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 5:59 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 6:58 PM EST
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CABOT, Vt. (WCAX) - Monday, you could wade into Lake Champlain, but four years ago this week, people were walking their way across the water. That’s the last time the lake connecting Vermont and New York completely froze over.

But this year, a warm winter brought dangerous ice conditions on Lake Champlain. Experts say we’re well below average on ice coverage.

Some other bodies of water are iced in-- at least for now-- and that’s good for a Vermont tradition.

Joe’s Pond is still covered in ice and snow. The Danville body of water is home to the famous ice-out challenge that marks the unofficial end of winter.

Michelle Walker of Cabot says the ice on Joe’s Pond has been OK so far this year, offering plenty of recreation. But there’s a growing conversation among organizers.

“We have worried this year, we worried last year if the ice would go out too soon,” Walker said.

The earliest the block has dropped is April 5.

Walker believes the fresh blanket of snow will insulate the ice, allowing the block to last through March.

“I’m just hoping it stays on the ice until the first of April and someone wins a lot of money and has a good time,” Walker said.

But while the ice-out challenge is set and those submissions roll in in Cabot, Lake Champlain isn’t even close to icing over.

Another 40-degree day in Burlington had snow melting and the waters of Lake Champlain flowing.

“By and large the ice on Lake Champlain has been well below normal,” said Robert Haynes of the National Weather Service in Burlington.

The National Weather Service in Burlington says the end of February into early March is when Lake Champlain has the best chance of icing over. It was four years ago that Lake Champlain last froze completely. But images from only days ago show the lake isn’t even close right now.

“Maybe about three or four times a decade you’ll see the Lake Champlain freeze over completely,” Haynes said.

The NWS says this winter, measured meteorologically from Dec. 1 to March 1, was the third-warmest on record. So even the ice in the islands and in the lower part of the lake isn’t strong.

“Even looking at some of the images you can tell it’s rotten, you can see the cracks,” Haynes said.

But if Lake Champlain’s fate isn’t icy this year, other lakes could have seen more success. The weather service says it depends on where you are-- like in Cabot, where residents have faith in Joe’s Pond lasting beyond April 1.

“It’s a wish and a prayer,” Walker said.

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