Here is this weekend's look at outdoor recreation conditions around the Adirondacks.
Winter is in full swing in the Adirondacks! Snow over the past ten days has encouraged winter sports enthusiasts. Although it’s been a light and dry snow, we’re on track for a great winter season.
Snowshoes or skis will be needed at all elevations, and crampons or other traction devices will be necessary at higher elevations. Today’s brief warming is expected to end tomorrow with temperatures returning to below normal and windchills in the single digits below zero to -10.
Remember that the recent snowfall 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. Avalanches can occur any time there is a deep snow cover made of multiple layers of snow, so learn proper avalanche safety and rescue techniques and remember that a slide that has already been skied can still pose an avalanche hazard.
Snow amounts vary around the region from one to two feet at lower elevations to nearly four feet at higher elevations in the High Peaks. There is about 12 to 16 inches of snow in Warren County, 18 to 24 in Newcomb and the Lake Placid area, and 10 to 12 inches around Saranac Lake and out toward the northwest. There is about 30 inches of snow at the Lake Colden Interior Cabin and 45 inches at 4,000 feet. Be aware that because snowfall has been light and dry, snow bridges may not yet be safe to cross.
There is ice on all waters, but many lower elevation waters have only recently frozen over and have thawed and refrozen several times, making for weak ice, lots of slush and layered ice. Remember that ice that holds snow may not yet hold the weight of a person, so avoid inlets and outlets and check ice depth before venturing onto frozen waterbodies and frequently during crossings.
There are good early season backcountry ski conditions. Ski safely however, and be aware of obstacles that may be hidden by the light snow. Some drainages remain unfrozen and off-trail conditions are only fair to good depending on location. The best opportunities are the early season routes, including Connery Pond, the Whiteface Highway, Newcomb Lake-Santanoni, Fish Pond, Hays Brook and Lake Lila.
In the High Peaks, the hiking trail from Adirondac Loj to Marcy Dam is skiable but marginal, so the Marcy Dam Truck Trail is the better choice there. Avalanche Pass has been skied, but there are some rocks to avoid between the dam and Avalanche Camp. There is enough ice to cross Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden, but slush will remain a problem. Mount Marcy is reported skiable above the 50 meter bridge but not below, and the Wright Peak Ski Trail is reported just barely skiable above the junction with the hiking trail.
The Jackrabbit Trail is marginal at the Saranac Lake end, but the rest of the trail is in very good condition. Old Mountain Road has excellent conditions, with more than two feet of snow at the top of the pass.
Cross country ski conditions are very good and areas are now open on 8 to 15 inches of packed powder base, and grooming underway. The Tupper Lake and Paul Smith’s VIC trails have about a 6 to 8 inch base, Cascade has 10 inches, Mount Van Hoevenberg 12, Lapland Lake is reporting a 9 to 12 inch base, and Garnet Hill near North Creek has about 18 to 20 inches.
Conditions remain outstanding at downhill ski areas, with the continued exception of Hickory Mountain in Warrensburg – the snow has just been a little too dry and light for good coverage there, but one more good storm should do it.
There are good early season snowmobile conditions which should hold through the weekend. Trails continue to have some wet spots, but all clubs are grooming. The best riding continues to be in Tug Hill, and the western Adirondacks, and also in Hamilton County and North Warren County. The gates have been opened on snowmobile trails in the Wilmington, Blue Mountain, Moose River Plains, Lake George, Split Rock Mountain, and Debar Wild Forests. Riders should still use restraint however; some of the most popular trails will likely be ridden thin this weekend.
Finally this week, three Winter Weekend ski and snowshoe events at historic Camp Santanoni are planned for this year on the Martin Luther King Holiday Weekend, Presidents Day Weekend, and the St. Patricks Day Weekend. They will be a great opportunity to see the buildings and grounds of that historic great camp.
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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