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DEC advises backcountry visitors to prepare for conditions

Posted 1/15/22

ALBANY — Outdoor adventurers are encouraged to prepare for snow, ice and cold as the onslaught of wintry weather is providing good conditions for winter outdoor recreation in the Adirondacks, …

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DEC advises backcountry visitors to prepare for conditions

Posted

ALBANY — Outdoor adventurers are encouraged to prepare for snow, ice and cold as the onslaught of wintry weather is providing good conditions for winter outdoor recreation in the Adirondacks, Catskills, and other backcountry areas, according to an announcement by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Winter conditions have arrived and it’s a great time to take advantage of all of the winter recreation opportunities New York has to offer,” said state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos.

“While enjoying the outdoors this winter, remember that conditions can be dangerous if you’re not properly prepared,” Seggos added. “Visitors exploring the outdoors should dress for the cold and use proper traction devices and skis to navigate trails.”

Snow depths range greatly throughout the Adirondacks, with the deepest snow at higher elevations in the High Peaks region and on mountains over 3,000 feet.

Snow depths are thinner in the southeastern and northwestern Adirondacks, the DEC announcement said.

Ice is also present on high elevation trails, as well as many low-lying trails. Much of the Catskill Mountains are covered in snow, with icy trail conditions.

DEC recommends visitors to the backcountry carry snowshoes and trekking poles and use them when snow depths warrant.

Snowshoes or skis ease travel on snow and prevent “post holing,” which can ruin trails and cause sudden falls resulting in injuries.

Crampons or other traction devices should be carried for use on icy portions of the trails, including summits and other exposed areas, the DEC advises.

An ice axe may be necessary above tree line in the High Peaks. In the High Peaks Wilderness, snowshoes or skis are required where snow depth exceeds eight inches.

DEC Forest Rangers strongly advise that current trail conditions will make travel without properly fitting traction devices extremely difficult.

The DEC encourages those heading out this winter to enjoy the state’s wilderness areas to check out the state agency’s website, https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/112826.html, for further details on traction devices.

Although some seasonal access roads remain open, the use of four-wheel drive vehicles is strongly recommended and many seasonal access roads have transitioned to snowmobile use.

Visitors are advised to plan ahead and check local club, county, and state webpages and resources, including the NYSSA Snowmobile web map, for up-to-date snowmobile trail information.

Ice has formed on ponds, bays of lakes, slow-moving streams, and backwaters of rivers, according to the DEC, which adds that not all ice is safe at this time. Although ice may have snow on the surface, it may not be thick enough to hold the weight of a person.

When trying to decide whether ice is safe to walk on, always err on the side of caution, DEC officials say. Test ice before putting full weight on it. Ice is always thinner where there are springs or other moving water, such as at the mouths of tributaries, near outlets and inlets and along shorelines.

It’s better to remain dry and warm than to cross questionable ice just to save time, the DEC advises.

Backcountry visitors should follow these safety guidelines, DEC officials say:

Check weather before entering the woods.

If extreme cold is predicted or the weather is poor, postpone the trip; if you have already begun your excursion the weather worsens, head out of the woods;

Dress properly in layers of clothing made of wool, fleece, and other materials that wick moisture (not cotton), including a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots. Learn more on DEC’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKHqlzpigDE;

Carry a day pack with the following: ice axe, food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sunglasses, sunblock protection, ensolite pads, stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

Hypothermia can kill even when temperatures are above freezing. A tiny emergency “space blanket” can save your life;

Carry plenty of food and water. Eat, drink and rest often. Being tired, hungry,or dehydrated makes outdoor adventurers more susceptible to hypothermia;

Know the terrain and physical capabilities. Remember that it takes more time and energy to travel through snow; and

Never travel alone and always inform someone of the intended route and return time.

Common Winter Challenges

Looking ahead to this weekend, the National Weather Service issued a wind chill watch in
effect for northern New York, with dangerously cold wind chills as low as 30 to 40 below zero possible. 

Challenges common to winter include avalanches, snow squalls, frostbite and thin ice.

Except for those who recreate in the backcountry, most people are unlikely to become victims of avalanches. However, almost everyone has experienced a snow squall, which can obliterate vision and create slippery surfaces.

Squalls tend to be brief, so stay put if you’re caught in one.

Frostbite is the freezing of living tissues that causes a breakdown of their cell structure. It may affect the extremities after prolonged exposure to temperatures below freezing.

Frostbite injury can range from superficial redness of the skin, slight numbness or blisters, to skin discoloration, obstruction of blood flow or blood clots.

Rubbing frostbitten skin, once a popular “remedy,” can cause further damage; don’t do it, the DEC says.

Traveling through snow takes more energy and time than hiking the same distance, especially in freshly fallen snow.

Plan trips accordingly. In an emergency call 911. To request Forest Ranger assistance, call 1-833-NYS-RANGERS.

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