It’s that time of year again, when recent winter storms and the thaws that follow can create avalanche conditions. Here’s what to know.
“DEC is cautioning anyone headed to the Adirondack High Peaks region and planning to ski, snowboard, or traverse backcountry slides and other avalanche-prone terrain to be extremely careful and prepare for avalanche conditions,” DEC Commissioner Basil Segos said in a statement.
The High Peaks have recently seen 5 to 6 feet of snow, much of which accumulated over the past couple of weeks. Due to high winds, snow depths are deeper on leeward slopes or areas of snow deposits, such as gullies, and you’ll especially want to be careful in these areas.
As the snow accumulates over time and there are rain/melt/freeze cycles distinct layers can form. Then when new snow falls on the previous snowpack, it adds weight and downward pressure – the lower snow layers reacting to this new pressure is what can cause an avalanche.
Although the DEC is highlighting the High Peaks specifically, avalanche-prone terrain can be found throughout the Adirondack Park. Snowy Mountain in particular was mentioned as being at risk.
Here’s what to do to stay safe out there:
- Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on the trails
- Avoid steep slopes on summits
- Know the terrain, weather, and snow conditions
- Dig multiple snow pits to conduct stability tests (don’t rely on other people’s dat)
- Practice safe route finding and travel techniques
- Don’t ski, board, or climb with someone above or below you – 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 a shovel, probes, and transceiver with fresh batteries
- Ensure all members of the group know avalanche rescue techniques
- Never travel alone and tell someone where you’re going