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As Madison-based comedian Esteban Touma has noted, winter-weather small talk is a competitive sport in Wisconsin. “Oh, this is nothing compared to that storm a few years back.” “You feel that windchill? BRRR!” “You think that’s a foot of snow? HAH.” Luckily, the Wisconsin State Climatology Office has kept track of all the cold, hard stats you need to factually debate the state’s worst winters, including data on when the lakes freeze. According to the median data since 1852, Lake Mendota typically freezes over by January 4 and thaws out by April 7. All the numbers in the world can’t account for the whims of Wisconsin’s winter weather, though. In the winter of 2001–02, the lake froze over and thawed twice, resulting in its shortest freeze at only 21 days. The most days of ice cover occurred in the winter of 1880–81 with 161 days. (That fact might be unsurprising to those familiar with the legendary blizzard of 1881.) On January 15, 2024, the lake was officially declared frozen for the 2023–24 winter season. Enjoy activities like ice skating and snowshoeing with Outdoor UW or take part in an outdoor dance party and winter scavenger hunt at Family Fun in Alumni Park next month. Despite the icy weather, short days, and sludge, all the fun of winter will be over before we know it. If 2024 follows the pattern of the last 172 years, the lake should be thawed out around April 26!

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