Cold snap prompts lake freeze

Lake Windermere's official ice-up came more than two weeks earlier than it did last year.

View of Lake Windermere looking south taken on Thursday

View of Lake Windermere looking south taken on Thursday

Lake Windermere froze last week with the official ice-up coming more than two weeks earlier than it did last year.

The lake was frozen by Friday, November 22nd this year thanks to a recent cold snap — making Steven Levitt the winner of the Lake Windermere Ambassador’s second annual community Catch the Freeze competition. Mr. Levitt was just one day off with his freeze-up prediction of November 23rd — the earliest guess in the competition.

Although Lake Windermere iced up this year much earlier than it did in 2012 (on December 10th), a late November freeze has been common in recent years.

“It’s typical (for it to happen this time of year) because it’s a really shallow lake and it’s cold,” said Lake Windermere Ambassadors program co-ordinator Kirsten Harma.

Since the lake is shallow, it doesn’t stratify as deeper lakes do, and when the air gets cold as it did last week the entire lake gets cold all at once.

“It was ready to freeze, it just needed some cold temperatures,” said Ms. Harma.

Lake Windermere Ambassadors records show the freeze taking place on November 16th in 2011, December 5th in 2010, December 5th in 2009, November 25th in 2008, November 23rd in 2007, November 27th in 2006, December 3rd in 2005 and December 13th in 2004. The records also show trucks or ATVs typically being able to drive on the lake about three weeks — although sometimes later — after the initial freeze. Ms. Harma cautioned that just because the lake is frozen doesn’t mean it’s safe for driving yet.

The roughly 50 guesses in this year’s Catch the Freeze competition were, on aggregate, much later than the 46 guesses in the 2012 Catch the Freeze.

The 2013 competition had only four November guesses, with only one of them (Mr. Levitt’s) guessing before November 28th, while the 2012 competition has 19 November guesses, with the earliest being November 15th.

The 2013 competition had 26 guesses of December 13th or later, including four January guesses (the last being January 11th), while the 2012 competition had only eight guesses of December 13th or later and no January guesses.

Although Lake Windermere is shallow, it does not freeze all the way to the bottom and continues to be habitat for burbot, which spawn below the ice.

The ice means no new oxygen can enter the lake and the burbot must subsist on whatever oxygen is already in the lake.

The freezing of the lake also means a host of recreation opportunities are around the corner.

“We hope it provides a great winter of skiing, skating and ice fishing,” said Ms. Harma.

The District of Invermere will officially open the Whiteway once the lake is safe for driving and other activities.