Outdoor Weekend Conditions: December 28
Here is this weekend's look at outdoor recreation conditions around the Adirondacks.
Winter has finally arrived in the Adirondacks. A major storm this week has left a large amount of light and dry snow throughout the Adirondack region. Forecasts are calling for wind chill temperatures on summits in the single digits above zero and summits mostly obscured by clouds.
Be sure to check current forecasts before heading into the backcountry, and be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods. And remember that conditions can change suddenly because of weather, and accidents happen, so be prepared and carry a flashlight, first aid kit, food, water and extra clothing.
Snow amounts vary around the region from 8 to 20 inches at lower elevations to more than two feet in the High Peaks. There is about 8 to 12 inches in the Southeast and Eastern Adirondacks, with 15 to 18 inches in the Central Adirondacks and along the Western slopes and Tug Hill. There is about two feet of snow at the Colden Interior Cabin and more at higher elevations.
Be prepared to break trail through new snow and turn back when conditions warrant. The use of snowshoes or skis is required in the Eastern High Peaks and will be necessary throughout the Adirondacks this weekend.
This new snow has created the potential for avalanches in the High Peaks region, especially on slides and on leeward slopes where winds can carry large amounts of snow and create wind slabs. The danger of an avalanche is highest shortly after a significant snowfall, and avalanches can occur anytime there is a deep snow cover made of multiple layers of snow. The risk of avalanche depends on a number of factors and can change as temperature and humidity influence the snowpack. Avoid traveling on open areas with slopes between 25 and 50 degrees and no vegetation. Learn proper avalanche safety and rescue techniques and remember that a slide that has already been skied can still pose an avalanche hazard.
More than two feet of snow in the High Peaks has opened most trails to backcountry skiing with the possible exception of the Marcy Ski Trail. Ski safely however, and be aware of early season obstacles, especially in areas outside the High Peaks.
All cross-country ski areas are now open with nearly all trails open, outstanding conditions, and grooming underway.
With fresh powder, conditions are also excellent at downhill ski areas, which have now all opened with the exception of Hickory Mountain in Warrensburg, which will require another foot or so of natural snow.
Some early season snowmobiling has begun, but conditions are mostly fair with some wet spots. Clubs are still clearing and opening trails and many have not yet begun grooming. Warren County trails are not yet open, and the best riding is in Tug Hill and the western Adirondacks, and also in Hamilton County where some grooming is taking place. Call ahead to confirm, and do not ride on closed trails. Now is a good time to use restraint, we’ll need more snow before trails everywhere are open and in good condition.
The new trail from Newcomb to Indian Lake will be open this weekend. There are three new signs with maps located at the Newcomb house, at the bottom of Cornell Road and one at Rock River. The trail will still be rough as early season conditions prevail, so ride with caution.
In Long Lake, the Powerline Trail from the Mt. Sabattis Pavilion to Long View Lodge is closed this season.
Most early ice climbs are in including at the north side of Pitchoff - a best bet for this weekend - Chapel Pond, and Cascade Pass. In the back country Elk Pass is climbable, and there are probably some climbs at Underwood Canyon. Poke-O-Moonshine is reported to be top-ropeable and improving. There is no climbing yet reported at the North Face of Gothics, Pharaoh Mountain, or the Mineville Pillar. The Palisades on Lake Champlain are reported to be not quite climbable yet, and the same with Roaring Brook. That may change by the end of the weekend.
Rivers and streams have returned to normal levels for this time of year, but remember that traditional snow bridges may not yet be safe to cross.
Finally this week, there is ice on all waters, although it should generally be considered unsafe to cross. Many waters have only recently frozen over and have thawed and refrozen several times making for weak ice. Remember that ice that holds snow may not yet hold the weight of a person. Check the depth of ice frequently if you are venturing onto frozen waterbodies.
This is the first big snow of the year – take the opportunity to get out and enjoy it!
John Warren edits the online news journal Adirondack Almanack and reports Adirondack outdoor conditions for North Country Public Radio.
PHOTO CREDIT: Dale Willman
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