If you are planning a ski trip any time soon to Whiteface or Gore Mountains then pay close attention to this story. State environmental officials say heavy snowfall has increased the risk of avalanches on Adirondack Mountain slopes, especially in the High Peaks region. I don't have hard fact snowfall totals for this part of New York State, but if Syracuse has seen 125" as of Thursday, there has to have been at least that amount if not more. Higher elevations are generally colder and often receive snow when lower elevations get rain. And once the snow has fallen it doesn't melt much during the winter months. Take a look at a map of snowfall totals across the northeast this season for reference.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has advised hikers, skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers in the Adirondack back country to take safety precautions, including:
- Know avalanche rescue techniques- Practice safe route finding- Carry safety equipment (transceiver, probe, shovel)- Never travel alone- Know the terrain, weather and snow conditions- Inform someone where you plan to go and when you expect to return
Avalanche danger increases during and immediately after major snowfalls, as well as during thaws. By far, most occur in the western states, especially Colorado, Alaska and Utah, where mountains are higher in elevation and bigger in size. Already this winter season there have been 7 deaths from avalanches in the U.S. as reported on Avalanche.org. None were located in the northeast states. Over the past 10 years there have been an average of 15 deaths each year in the USA. Another interesting fact from that website is the number of avalanche deaths in New York State over the past 50 years. While they are rare, 4 fatalites have been reported.
The first step to take before venturing out into the mountains is to be informed. Information on trail conditions and closures can be found on the DEC website .
Being a meteorologist, an avid skier and one who has skied in avalanche country out west, I have a heightened awareness of them. Most avalanche deaths occur when people are "out of bounds" at a ski area or backcountry skiing, where conditions are not controlled. Each morning in areas prone to slides, workers blast shells into snow banks to set off explosions and controlled slides. They know that no one is in harms way at the time. It's an amazing sight to see. Once deemed safe to ski on, the area is then opened. When you leave a ski areas boundary, which are well marked, you run a higher risk of being in danger's way. But the allure of deep powder where few others have skied, attracts many to take the risk. Have you ever witnessed an avalanche either here in the northeast or elsewhere? Tell us about your experience by leaving a comment below. I'd love to hear your story!
Information from the Associated Press and State DEC was used in this report.