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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How deep is the snow?

Snow depths for Wednesday, December 16. Courtesy of NOAA.

Snow depths for Wednesday, December 16. Courtesy of NOAA.

We got enough snow last week to do a little backcountry skiing. One day I skied to McKenzie Pond; on another, I skied part way up Debar Mountain. The flats were fine, but on both trails, my skis scraped rocks on the hills. Expect the cover to remain thin for a while, at least in the Lake Placid region, as no big storms are in the forecast.

Of course, whenever you’re planning on cross-country skiing in the Adirondacks and coming from outside the Park, you’d probably like to know how much snow we have.

Well, if you’re going to ski in the High Peaks or anywhere in the Lake Placid region, you’re in luck. Tony Goodwin, the author of Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks, regularly updates the cross-country-ski conditions for the Lake Placid area here.

But what about other parts of the Park? It’s 5.8 million acres, and snow conditions vary thoughout it. Generally, the western part of the Park receives more snow over a season, owing to lake-effect storms. Retired Forest Ranger Gary Lee told me they got sixteen inches of snow in Inlet last week. Spencer Morrissey, the author of The Other 54, said they got a similar amount in Wanakena.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations updates daily an online map showing the snow depths throughout the Northeast. Today’s map (shown above) indicates that the snow is 15 to 20 inches deep in parts of the central Adirondacks.

You can find more snow reports from NOAA here. If you click on any of the weather stations, you’ll find line graphs showing snow depth, snow melt, snow density, and so forth. Three of the weather stations are in the Adirondacks: Saranac Lake, Speculator, and Chesterfield.

When I looked at these graphs, it seemed to me that they overestimated snow depth. For example, the Speculator site indicates that the snow is about 26 inches deep–more than the maximum amount shown in the Northeast map. I e-mailed NOAA for an explanation. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Other good sources of information are cross-country-ski resorts, which often post their snow conditions online. Mary Thill listed the Adirondack resorts in a recent post on Adirondack Almanack.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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