Are you planning on exploring the Adirondacks during this week’s February Break? Although recent snowfalls have made backcountry trails prime for snowshoeing and skiing, the fluctuating temperatures have also increased the risk of avalanches in the High Peaks Region.
In a recent press release, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued an official avalanche advisory for the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks. Avalanches are more likely to occur after significant snowfalls and during thaws.
Over the past two weeks, the Adirondacks received about 18-26 inches of new snow, which is in addition to the previous snowfalls. High winds in the High Peaks Region have caused snow to be deeper on leeward slopes and gullies, and snow depths there range from 32-46 inches.
Due to the rain and melting caused by fluctuating temperatures, distinct snow layers have formed in the High Peaks Region. The lower layers are the ones most conducive to avalanches, and right now, there is a lot of stress on them.
Although avalanches are common in western mountain ranges in the U.S., there have been major accidents in New York State before. In February 2000, one person was killed and five were injured while skiing on Wright Peak in the High Peaks Region.
This week is expected to be warmer than normal in the High Peaks Region and the Adirondacks, so you’ll want to be extra cautious of potential avalanches. Here are some key avalanche safety tips, as recommended by the DEC:
- Cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and hikers should stay on trails and away from steep slopes on summits
- Prepare ahead of time and know the terrain, weather forecast, and snow conditions
- Dig snow pits to conduct stability tests
- Practice safe travel techniques on the trails
- Do not ski, board, or climb when someone is above or below you
- Ski and ride near trees; avoid open areas and the center of slides
- Carry a shovel, probes, and a transceiver with new batteries
- Make sure everyone in your group knows avalanche rescue techniques
- Do not travel alone
- Tell someone when and where you are going