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DEC: Exercise caution in the Adirondacks

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The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is advising those traversing the backcountry of the Adirondack Mountains be prepared for snow, ice and cold, and use proper equipment. Although winter can bring beautiful scenery and adventurous hikes, the season can also present troublesome, and even perilous conditions to the unprepared.

Thursday’s storm has left upwards of a foot of snow across the Adirondacks. In some areas, such as the Eastern High Peaks, snowshoes or cross-country skis are required for safety; they are recommended for winter hiking in all areas. The use of snowshoes or skis prevents falls, avoids injuries and eases travel on snow. So-called “post-holing,” traveling through deep snow and leaving deep foot prints, takes much more energy and ruins trails for other users. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy mountaintops and other exposed areas.

Traveling through snow takes more energy and time than hiking the same distance. Plan trips accordingly.

Waters have only recently begun freezing over and should not be considered safe to access. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.

Avalanches can occur in any situation where snow, slope and weather conditions combine to create the proper conditions. Visitors planning to climb or ski in areas with steep, bare slopes should be aware of avalanche conditions. Before going out, bring a transceiver with new batteries and be sure they are working properly.

Check weather forecasts and pay attention to red flags such as more than a foot of snow in a 24-hour period, any amount of snow that falls at a rate of more than an inch per hour and high winds. Additional snow can stress existing snowpack. Winds can transport greater amounts of snow to leeward slopes and potentially create wind slabs.

Skiers and others planning to travel in avalanche prone terrain should learn to recognize the danger signs of an avalanche. Dig pits and make decisions based on your observations. Just because a slope has been skied, doesn’t mean that it can’t slide. Practice safe travel techniques, have a rescue plan and know how to self-rescue. Bring a shovel and probe, have a pack with adequate equipment to handle whatever conditions you may encounter and have a good first-aid kit. Always inform someone where you plan to go and when you expect to return.

Skiers and snowshoers are reminded that the Avalanche Pass Slide is closed to public recreation of any type during the winter.

More information on avalanche danger and safety precautions is available on the DEC website.

Adirondack Trail Information can be found on the DEC website. The web pages provide general information and seasonal conditions, specific notices on closures and other situations involving trails, roads, foot bridges, etc. and links to rules & regulations, hiker and camper safety, low impact recreation, weather and more.

State forest rangers recommend the following tips to ensure a safe hike:

■ Dress properly with layers of non-cotton clothing: hat & gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear and winter boots;

■ Carry a day pack complete with plenty of food and water, extra clothing, a map and compass, a first-aid kit, a flashlight/headlamp, ensolite pads, a stove & extra fuel and a bivy sack or space blankets. On sunny days bring sunglasses and sun block. If hiking on icy, open mountain summits, carry an ice axe.

■ Drink plenty of water – dehydration can lead to hypothermia.

■ Eat plenty of food to maintain energy levels and warmth.

■ Check weather before entering the woods – if the weather is poor, postpone the trip. The mountains aren’t going anywhere.

■ Be aware of weather conditions at all times; if weather worsens, leave the backcountry.

■ Contact the DEC at (518) 897-1200 to obtain trail conditions in the area you plan to visit.

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