This week’s snowstorm dropped more than three feet of snow in some places in the Adirondacks. Now, New York officials are warning hikers about dangerous backcountry conditions, including deep snow, thin ice and the potential for avalanches.
New York Department of Environmental Conservation officials released the following statement:
This week’s snowstorm provided most of the Adirondacks with three feet or more of snow, even the periphery received a foot or more of snow. Winter outdoor enthusiasts seeking to recreate in the Adirondack backcountry should be aware of and prepare for the conditions they may encounter while enjoying the great snow conditions.
- Most trails will not be used until the weekend; secondary and other lesser used trails may not be used through the weekend.
- Expect to push through deep, fresh snow on untraveled trails (“break trail”) now through early Saturday or through the weekend if using .
- Breaking trail takes more time and expends more energy, plan accordingly.
- High winds during the recent storm likely generated blowdown (fallen or leaning trees, limbs and branches) on many trails.
Snowshoes or skis are REQUIRED ON ALL TRAILS in the High Peaks Wilderness and should be used on ALL TRAILS throughout the Adirondacks. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (deep footprints in the snow), avoids injuries, and eases travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and hazardous for others to use.
- Ice had thinned, weakened, and receded from inlets, outlets and shorelines before the recent period of sub-zero temperatures.
- Ice has only recently formed and is thin on many waters, even though they may be covered in snow the following areas should be avoided.
- Over or near moving water such as rivers, streams, and channels;
- Near any open water;
- Near shorelines;
- Near inlets and outlet;
- Near boathouses & docks; and
- Near “bubblers” or other ice prevention devices.
- Ice that can hold snow may not hold the weight of a person!
- No ice should be considered safe without checking the thickness and condition!
- Be safe on the ice.
High Elevation Open Summits
- Temperatures will be colder, winds will be stronger, and snow will be deeper than what is encountered at the trailhead.
- Trails above tree line will be easily loss – Know how to use a map and compass to navigate or wait a few days until trails have been used and are easier to follow.
- Whiteout conditions from blowing snow can occur regularly and suddenly.
- Carry a map and compass;
- Know how to navigate without the ability to see land marks, cairns, or your tracks; and
- Do not attempt to summit mountains when whiteout conditions exist.
- Check the National Weather Service Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits.
The recent winter storm was accompanied by high winds and snowfall rates of 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) an hour resulting in more than 30 inches (75 cm) of snow on the higher peaks of the Adirondacks. The high winds transported snow to the leeward side of mountains producing deeper snows and cornices. Below freezing temperatures and additional snow accumulations forecast through the weekend will add layers to the snowpack and slow bonding in the snowpack. These are all factors conducive to avalanche conditions on avalanche prone terrain.
Visitors to the backcountry are advised to follow these guidelines:
- Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on trails and away from steep slopes on summits.
- Backcountry downhill skiers, snowboarders, and other winter recreationist who may traverse avalanche prone steep open terrain (slides) should take precautions:
- Know the terrain, weather and snow conditions.
- Dig multiple snow pits to conduct stability tests – do not rely on other people’s data.
- Practice safe route finding and safe travel techniques.
- Never ski, board, or climb with someone above or below you – only one person on the slope at a time.
- Ski and ride near trees – not in the center of slides or other open areas.
- Always carry shovel, probes and transceiver with fresh batteries.
- Ensure all members of the group know avalanche rescue techniques.
- Never travel alone.
- Let someone know where you are going.
- Know and be prepared for avalanche conditions.
Many snowmobile trails systems and gates on individual trails had been closed due lack of snow prior to the snowstorm. DEC is working with the St. Lawrence County Snowmobile Association, the Franklin County Snowmobilers and others to reopen some gates and trails, contact the local club or tourist information center to obtain local trail conditions before going out.
- Snowmobilers should not ride on any frozen water bodies.
- Do not ride snowmobiles on closed trails.
- Snowmobilers should slow down when passing skiers and snowshoers.
- Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.
Be prepared for winter conditions, check current conditions on the Adirondack Backcountry Information web pages, and have a safe and enjoyable winter outdoor recreational experience in the Adirondacks.