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For Release: Thursday, March 15, 2018

DEC Advises Backcountry Downhill Skiers, Snowboarders, and Others of Avalanche Risk in Adirondack High Peaks Region

Backcountry downhill skiers, snowboarders, and others who may traverse slides and other steep open terrain in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks must be aware of the risk of avalanche New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos advised today.

"Recent storms have resulted in a significant amount of new snow and we expect an increase in the number of recreational enthusiasts visiting the High Peaks to snowshoe, cross country ski, or simply enjoy the pristine surroundings," Commissioner Seggos said. "We are cautioning anyone planning to ski, board, or traverse backcountry slides and other avalanche-prone terrain in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks to be extremely careful and be prepared for avalanche conditions."

The Adirondacks have received approximately 18 to 30 inches of new snow in the past two weeks. The High Peaks Region has received 18 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours alone. The new snow is on top of the previous snowpack, which has distinct layers formed by rain and melt/freeze cycles. Due to high winds, snows depths are deeper on leeward slopes or areas of snow deposits, such as gullies. Lower snow layers may be reactive to the added stresses of the recent snows creating conditions conducive to avalanches.

Avalanches can occur in any situation where snow, slope, and weather conditions combine to create the proper conditions. While much of steep open terrain is found in High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks, avalanche-prone terrain is found on mountains throughout the Adirondacks, including Snowy Mountain in Hamilton County.

Avalanche danger increases during and immediately after major snowfalls and during thaws. The forecast for this weekend is for mostly sunny and partly sunny skies with temperatures above freezing. While this weather is appealing to outdoor enthusiasts, it also increases the danger of avalanches.

The majority of avalanches in the United States occur in the western mountains. However, avalanches do occur in the northeast and can have dire consequences. Vermont State Police, multiple volunteer search and rescue groups, and resort ski patrols have received dozens of calls for assistance resulting in more than 30 skiers and snowboarders requiring rescue. The most recent avalanche caused injuries to six soldiers training at Smugglers Notch. In February, a skier on Wright Peak was trapped waist deep in snow. He was escaped uninjured with the assistance of his companions. This is the same peak where one person was killed and five people were injured in an avalanche while skiing in February 2000.

DEC reminds back country winter recreationists to take the following precautions when traveling in avalanche-prone terrain:

Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on trails and avoid steep slopes on summits.

  • 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.
  • Notify someone about where you are going.

Additional information on avalanche danger, preparedness, and safety precautions.

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  • NYSDEC Region 5
    1115 State Route 86
    P.O. Box 296
    Ray Brook, NY 12977
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