DEC urges backcountry travelers to be prepared

In the wake of a series of high-profile search-and-rescues, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is urging backcountry travelers to be prepared. The following news release was issued this morning.



Snowshoes, Skis Strongly Recommended For All Trails

Visitors to the backcountry of the Adirondacks should be prepared and have proper clothing and equipment for snow, ice and cold the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) advised today.

“Now that snows have arrived in the Adirondacks, winter recreationist can take advantage of all that the Park has to offer,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “However, recreationist must be aware that winter can also present troublesome – even perilous – conditions to the unprepared. Visitors exploring the backcountry should dress for cold weather and use snowshoes and skis to navigate trails.”

Although there may be little snow in the Champlain Valley and the southeastern Adirondacks, there is significant snow cover throughout the rest of the Adirondacks. Also snow depths are greater in the higher elevations, up to a few feet deep on slopes of the highest mountains.

Visitors to the Eastern High Peaks are required to use snowshoes or cross-country skis for their safety. It is strongly recommended that visitors to other parts of the Adirondacks do the same. Snowshoes or skis ease travel on snow and prevent “post holing”, which can cause sudden falls and result in injuries.  Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy mountaintops and other exposed areas. In addition, backcountry visitors should follow these safety guidelines:


•         Dress properly with layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!) clothing: a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots.

•         Carry a day pack with the following contents: Ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

•         Drink plenty of water — dehydration can lead to hypothermia and eat plenty of food to maintain energy levels and warmth.

•         Check weather before entering the woods – if the weather is poor, postpone your trip.

•         Be aware of weather conditions at all times – if the weather worsens, head out of the woods.

•         Know the terrain and your physical capabilities – it takes more time and energy to travel through snow.

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

Avalanche Awareness

Snows have accumulated to sufficient depths on Adirondack Mountain slopes to create conditions conducive to avalanches. While avalanche danger increases during and immediately after major snowfalls, as well as during thaws, avalanches can occur in any situation where snow, slope and weather conditions combine to create the proper conditions. An avalanche, triggered by skiers, recently occurred on a slide on Wright Peak.

DEC reminds back country winter recreationists to take the following precautions when traveling in avalanche prone terrain:

  • practice safe route finding and safe methods for traversing slopes;
  • know avalanche rescue techniques;
  • carry safety equipment (transceiver, probe, and shovel);
  • know the terrain, weather and snow conditions; and
  • Never travel alone and always inform someone of your intended route and return time.

Information on avalanche conditions and safety precautions is available on the DEC website at

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

Visit the DEC Adirondack Trail Information web page at to obtain the latest on trail conditions and use links for current weather and snow cover.

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

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