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Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Frustrating Winter For Backcountry Skiers

Summit of Dewey Mountain in Saranac Lake on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Phil Brown

It’s been another frustrating winter for backcountry skiers. We haven’t had a big storm. Just as the snow starts to build up, we’re hit with a rainy thaw. That was the case again this week.

Following an icy rain, we got a few inches of heavy, wet snow in Saranac Lake. This afternoon I skied the trails at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center to check out the conditions.

The groomed trails on the lower slopes were in fine shape, as expected, but I was more interested in the ungroomed trails at the top, which are one indication of backcountry conditions.

Again, no surprises: the fresh, heavy snow lay over a thin base. The skiing was not too bad in most places, especially considering the shallow snowpack. Of course, rocks were not adequately covered, but they were at least coated by the new snow.

A good deal of snow can be found at higher elevations. The state Department of Environmental Conservation reports that there is 37 inches at the Lake Colden caretaker’s cabin and up to five feet or more on high summits.

Following is an excerpt from DEC’s weekly High Peaks conditions report:

  • Trailhead and trails below 1,500 feet in elevation have little to no snow
  • Trailheads and trails between 1,500 feet and 2,200 feet have 1 to 6 inches of snow.
  • Ice is present at all trailheads and low elevation trails.
  • Snow depths range up to 5 feet or more on high elevation summits.
  • There are 37 inches (95 cm) of snow at the stake at the Lake Colden Caretaker’s Cabin (2,775 feet elevation).

I wish I could say conditions will improve at the lower elevations. However, there is more rain and sleet in the forecast in the days ahead.

Phil Brown

Phil Brown has been editing the Adirondack Explorer since 1999. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important. You can follow his adventures and his musings on the Adirondacks in the Explorer and on this blog.

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