Subzero Life Goes On in Saranac Lake, N.Y. Think you've had a chilly week? While much of the nation has dealt with a real taste of winter, residents of Saranac Lake, N.Y., have been in the deep freeze. Below-zero temperatures are the norm there in winter. But the 33 below zero morning this week had even longtime residents donning their extra-thick long johns.

Subzero Life Goes On in Saranac Lake, N.Y.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Global warming may be an undeniable trend, but right now, in the eastern part of the country, it is cold. In New York's Adirondack Mountains, the temperature got as low as minus 33 degrees, according to some measurements. And for the people of Saranac Lake, subzero temperatures are just part of life, as North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reminds us.

BRIAN MANN: Most northerners will tell you that the hardest part of life in a really cold place like Saranac Lake is the little stuff, the small chores that add up. Like convincing my dog, Sarah, that's her tail thumping nervously, to go out in the morning. Sarah is literally hiding, trying to avoid her morning constitutional.

All right. You're caught.

And then there's that next little hurdle: excavating the car.

(Soundbite of excavating a car in the snow)

MANN: It sounds like I'm prying open an ancient tomb. But that's just my beat-up Subaru.

(Soundbite of engine noise)

MANN: I turn the key and say a prayer. Success. After warming up the car, just enough that the gear shift actually works, I head downtown. Main street is brilliant with sunlight. I get out to walk, and my boots squeaked on snow so cold that it feels like Styrofoam.

(Soundbite of footsteps on the snow)

MANN: What's amazing is that the shops are bustling. People are going about their business. The only difference is that most folks are wearing so many layers that they look like Weebles.

Mr. BOB SEIDENSTEIN (Columnist, Saranac Lake, New York): I'm wearing mukluks.

MANN: Bob Seidenstein, who writes a column for the local newspaper, is standing outside the Blue Moon Cafe, looking downright toasty.

Mr. SEIDENSTEIN: And after that, I think it's Swedish Army pants. Wool, of course. And a pretty heavy-duty wool sweater and a scarf.

MANN: Seidenstein says he loves the cold and hates crowded sunny places. He also thinks icebox temperatures and brutally long winters make this place unique.

Mr. SEIDENSTEIN: Basically, people who have lived up their whole lives are defined by the cold. I mean, when you spend seven months of it, it is part and parcel of who we are.

MANN: Saranac Lake is often the coldest town in the U.S., colder even than Alaska. The villagers hold a winter carnival to celebrate that fact, building a huge palace out of ice carved from the lake. But for every purist who slogs through every frigid day, there are a half dozen folks like Martin Godel(ph). He grins through his frosty beard at the prospect of escaping winter, at least for a holiday.

Mr. MARTIN GODEL (Resident, Saranac Lake, New York): As long as the car starts, I'm fine. And very shortly, I'm on my way to Tucson. So it's even going to be better. And they're laughing right now about 20 below.

MANN: It's not all old timers braving the northern winter. As I head back to my car, I ran into Carly Ulrich(ph) and Ashley Patel(ph), two women in their early 20s who moved here from New Jersey.

Hey, Ashley, you're not dressed very warmly. You're wearing a sweater and a little cap. It's, like, minus…

Ms. ASHLEY PATEL (Resident, Saranac Lake, New York): And jeans.

MANN: And jeans. It's, like, minus 10 out here.

Ms. PATEL: Really?

Ms. CARLY ULRICH (Resident, Saranac Lake, New York): No.

MANN: So, like, this morning, when you got up and went out, you didn't feel cold?

Ms. PATEL: Well, I'm here starting my car.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MANN: All right. Now the truth comes out. That's cheating for sure.

I started this story talking about the little things, all those little chores that add up to life in the deep freeze. When I reached my car, I find the windows already glazed over in a fresh rime of ice. There is hope of a reprieve this weekend with balmy temperatures in the upper 30s expected by Sunday.

For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in Saranac Lake, New York.

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