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DEC Advises Backcountry Visitors of Winter Conditions in the Adirondacks

Recent snow and cold weather have created good conditions for winter outdoor recreation in the Adirondack backcountry, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. Visitors should be prepared with proper clothing and equipment for snow, ice, and cold to ensure a safe and enjoyable winter experience.

“Now that snow has arrived in the Adirondacks, visitors can take advantage of all the winter recreation opportunities in the park,” Commissioner Seggos said. “However, winter can also present dangerous-even perilous-conditions to the unprepared. DEC advises visitors exploring the backcountry to dress for cold weather and use snowshoes and skis to navigate trails where appropriate.”

Snow depths currently range from four to six inches across the central and northwestern portions of the Adirondacks. Eight to 12 inches of snow can be found across the southern and northeastern portions of the Adirondacks. In the High Peaks, snow depths range from 24-36 inches above 3,000 feet, requiring the use of snowshoes. Ice is present on exposed outlooks and summits above tree line. The National Weather Service NERFC Snow Page provides detailed maps depicting current snow depths and forecasts.

DEC recommends visitors to the backcountry carry snowshoes and use them when snow depths warrant. Snowshoes or skis ease travel on snow and prevent “post holing,” which can cause sudden falls resulting in injuries and create hazardous trail conditions for other users. Ice crampons and traction devices should be carried on all hikes for use on icy portions of the trail including summits and other exposed areas.

All seasonal access roads are closed to motor vehicle traffic. These roads will reopen after the spring mud season upon completion of maintenance and repair work. Seasonal access roads designated as snowmobile trails will be opened to snowmobile traffic as snow depths allow.

Many snowmobile trails remain closed despite recent snowfall. Additional snow is needed to provide a good base for snowmobile travel. Visitors should check with local snowmobile clubs to determine the status and condition of specific trails or view the New York State Snowmobile Association Interactive Trail Map.

Ice is forming on ponds, bays of lakes, slow moving streams, and backwaters of rivers. Ice is not safe to walk or stand on at this time. Although ice has snow on the surface, it does not mean the ice is thick enough to hold the weight of a person. Ice will remain unsafe until temperatures fall below freezing for a significant, continuous period.

To ensure a safe backcountry experience, visitors should also follow these additional safety guidelines:

Be aware of weather conditions. Check the weather before entering the woods. If the weather is poor, postpone your visit. If the weather worsens during your visit, head out of the woods immediately.
Dress properly. Wear layers of wool, fleece, and other materials that wick moisture. Avoid cotton. Wear a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outerwear, gaiters, and insulated winter boots.
Carry a day pack with the following contents: traction devices, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, packable insulated pad, stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blanket.
Eat, drink, and rest often. Being tired, hungry, or dehydrated makes visitors more susceptible to hypothermia.
Know the terrain and your physical capabilities. It takes more time and energy to travel through snow. Plan trips accordingly.
Avoid traveling alone. The risks of injury, hypothermia, and getting lost are much higher this time of year. Always inform someone of your intended route and return time.
Call the DEC Forest Ranger Emergency Dispatch at 518-891-0235 to report lost or injured people or other backcountry emergencies.

The DEC Adirondack Backcountry Information web page provides current trail condition information and links to current weather and snow cover as well as other important information to help ensure a safe and enjoyable Adirondack backcountry winter experience. For more information on winter safety in the backcountry, visit DEC’s HikeSmartNY web page.