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Old 01-21-2019, 10:09 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 338
High Peaks Warning

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.
"Due to current snow depths and conditions, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and the abundant amount of snow forecasted for this weekend, DEC expects 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 head to avalanche-prone terrain in the Adirondack High Peaks to be extremely careful and be prepared for avalanche conditions."

Snow depths in the High Peaks' high elevation slopes range from two to five feet and an additional foot or more of snow is expected this weekend. The new snow will fall on the current snow pack, which already 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 combine to create the proper conditions. While much of the steep open terrain is found in the 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. Last year, Vermont State Police, multiple volunteer search and rescue groups, and resort ski patrols received dozens of calls for assistance resulting in more than 30 skiers and snowboarders requiring rescue. In February 2018, a skier on Wright Peak was trapped in waist-deep snow. He 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; and
•Notify someone about where you are going.

Additional information on avalanche danger, preparedness, and safety precautions is available on the DEC web site.
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Old 01-21-2019, 11:36 AM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,719
Always a good reminder - too many people still do not realize that avalanches can happen here, though not nearly as often as out west.

(Of note, I think the reference to "February 2018" is a typo. The description matches the incident that took place in February of 2010; I can't find any report of an incident like that in February of 2018.)
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Old 01-21-2019, 11:43 AM   #3
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 338
I just copied and pasted from the DEC announcement. I try to avoid high slope areas in the summer ( old age creeps up rapidly!), no way I'm going up any in the snow. But there are a lot of folks asking questions about going back there, so I figured this was a good one to post.
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Old 01-21-2019, 01:59 PM   #4
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,719
Right, yes, I think it's a typo by DEC.

I agree with you about avoiding those conditions. The surest way to avoid getting in an avalanche is to not go where they might occur. I have all the training and the equipment, and I still practice avoidance as the primary skill.
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Old 01-22-2019, 08:07 AM   #5
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 58
Based on how the snow on my roof avalanched when I was raking it (15" on top of 4 inches of older snowpack) I can believe that the backcountry is pretty dangerous now.
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