Sliding off the Kilburn Slide

The March/April issue of the Explorer contains an article about skiing the Kilburn Slide outside Lake Placid. I went with Josh Wilson, a backcountry snowboarder, shortly after a big snowfall that prompted an avalanche warning for the region. One purpose of the trip was to test the avalanche conditions on the slide.

The greater purpose, though, was to ski (or snowboard) the thing. Josh went down in superb fashion, carving big curves in the snow and at one point gliding off a small cliff. I skied badly, however. I’m just not used to skiing slides. Most of my backcountry skiing is on trails or in powder-filled glades.

I returned to Kilburn yesterday to try to redeem myself. No one had been on the slide since our last big snowfall last week. I turned around a little short of the top and looked back at a white slope broken only by my ascent track.

Starting down, I fell almost at once, but I got my act together and made it down the rest of the slide without any trouble. The powder was heavier than earlier in the month, but it was still powder, and the setting was wild and beautiful.

Then I came to the top of the sixty-foot wall at the base of the slide. On our earlier trip, Josh snowboarded off the wall. He angled halfway down, made one turn, and glided to the base in a slough of snow. Click here to watch a video of Josh.

On my solo trip, I thought I’d traverse across the face and then try to side-slip down or do a kick turn and ski down to the base. Although there was maybe a foot of snow on the face, ice lurked underneath. In the video below, you can hear my edges scraping the ice as I step into position for the traverse. Watch the video to find out what happened.

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.

Reader Interactions


  1. Paul says

    Phil, You are going to kill yourself. I would not do this kind of stuff alone. Do you at least have avalanche gear? Not that a beacon would help much alone. You need to have a partner and take turns. You need a guy behind in case he has to dig you out. Be careful.

  2. Phil says

    Paul, thanks for your concern. I knew it was possible that I would slide down the wall, but I also knew that I was unlikely to get hurt if that happened. It was a short ride with a soft landing.

  3. Josh says

    Phil, nice article. Glad you’re getting out there. If we always waited to do these things with others, instead of alone, we’d be waiting a whole lot and not having any fun.

    Paul, a ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are for.


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