View Full Version : Avalanche Pass Question

01-01-2004, 07:22 PM
I've never been to the Daks before, and have a couple of questions about Avalanche Pass.

First, do they call it Avalanche Pass because it's a dangerous slide area? (I'm thinking this place is something like Gulf of Slides...) Should I bring avalanche gear? I have a beacon, probe, and shovel.

Second, what kind of skis and boots to use? If it's a tour then I'm planning to bring the lightweight skis and boots. If I'm going to be making turns, then I'd prefer something beefier.


ALGonquin Bob
01-01-2004, 08:39 PM
Nadine, Avalanche Pass is a relatively safe area to hike and ski. There has been a landslide (avalanche?) there, as you will see as you travel through this narrow pass on the way from Marcy Dam to Avalanche Lake, but it is not known as a dangerous area. I don't know of anybody who carries special avalanche gear with them while hiking or skiing anywhere in the Adirondacks. So have fun. I hear that Avalanche Lake is frozen nicely now, but check this message board, or with the local rangers, before venturing onto the ice. I'm a hiker/snowshoer, so I can't advise you on skis or ski boots. I hope you have a great trip. -ALG

01-01-2004, 09:08 PM
Hi Nadine,

Roughly, Avalanche lake sits between Colden and Algonquin, Though more specifically, It really sits between Colden and Avalanche Mountain, which is a smaller mountain that is part of the Algonqiun massif.

Avalanche Pass starts on the approach to the lake, perhaps as much as a 1/2 mile or so before the lake, about 3/4 of a mile past Avlanche Camp. The pass becomes very narrow before finally opening up to Avalanche lake. this is a wonderful place to visit - especially in the winter when you can walk out on the lake and drink in the views that you cannot see in the summer as you cling to the "Hitch Up Matildas" (boardwalks along the sides of the cliffs)

- However, Hurricane Andrew or Floyd (I can never get them straight) in 1999 or 2000, devastated the area and caused a huge slide to come down, leaving tons of debris some 10-15 feet high - I think debris came down both sides, but it was heavier from the Colden side.

There has been a lot of trailwork in that area, and although the danger of an avalanche does exist, you are pretty safe, Though I do recall the DEC banishing skiing on the slide a year or so ago, due to possible avalanche conditions.

You are not talking of skiing the slide, but skiing the trail at the bottom of the slide (no danger there right? ;) )

I seriously wouldn't bother with avalanche gear, unless there was an unusually heavy significant snowfall within the few days preceding your trip. Most people I know that have skiied or snowshoed through there have never even given it a second thought, though the Wright avalanche a few years back did raise an awareenss of the possibilty of an avalanche in the Adirondacks. Many folks do this annually - in and back. (Coming back down Misery mile is even better!!)

You can always call the NYSDEC in Raybrook for any latest avalanche advisories.

As far as gear, If I recall from an earlier post, you have quite an arsenal of skis and boots (Was it the the Scarpa T-2's or 4's that you like very much? I am still a leatherboot)

If it were me, I'd bring my Voile 3-pin cable bindings and 1.5 camber metal edge Karhu XCD's (older telemark ski) rather than my lighter setup. (sigh.....Yeah, I know some would think my "heavier" setup is a "Lighter" setup)

Since I don't remember what you ski, I can tell you a bit about the terrain -
The first 2 miles into Marcy dam is just mild ups and downs - Rolling terrain - I wear my skins - Others just apply grip wax well outside the pocket and go.
From Marcy Dam to Avalanche Camp, I don't think the trail rises more than around 500-650 feet over ~ 2 miles - After that, the next mile to Avalanche pass is the steepest - The trail rises around 6-700 feet over that last mile before leveling out at the lake.

As long as you are there, You might want to consider skiing up the Whiteface auto road the next day - Bring crampons for the last 200 feet to the top, it makes a great trip.

Into MArcy Dam, You'll probably find folks skiing on all kinds of stuff out there

I hope this helps you - Others will probably add more significant thoughts
Hope you have a great trip

01-02-2004, 08:06 AM
I've skied the pass with my Fischer E99's, and my son has done it using his racing skis... which are like 40mm wide. (Think I've used racing skis once as well). Its more of a zig-zagging trail than an open area. The descent from the pass to Avalanche Camp has 4 turns.

01-02-2004, 08:54 AM
Pete Hickey is right on the skis. You definitely don't need heavy skis, and lighter equipment makes the approach much more fun. The hiking trail from the Loj is in bad shape these days, but the truck trail, which is only 1/2 mile longer, is very skiable. The South Meadow Road has been plowed and there is good parking 200 yds. past the start of the truck trail.
The DEC does not issue avalanche advisories. If you did ask you would probably get their standard winter press release info that does talk about beacons and probes. The slide directly above the trail at the top of the pass came down in 1999 with Hurricane Floyd. Its exposure is such that it rarely accumulates enough snow to slide, but just to eliminate the chance of a human-caused slide the DEC has prohibited skiing or snowshoeing on the slide.
The lake ice on both Avalanche and Colden is solid. Have a good ski.

01-02-2004, 12:25 PM
Originally posted by Pete_Hickey
I've skied the pass with my Fischer E99's, and my son has done it using his racing skis... which are like 40mm wide. (Think I've used racing skis once as well). Its more of a zig-zagging trail than an open area. The descent from the pass to Avalanche Camp has 4 turns.

Those turns can be pretty ferocious on skinny skis....I ended up on the hiki...........

........I can see that my father has not finished this post but he may edit it later. This is his son, Will and I would like to use the PC so I am posting what he has written and tell him to finish it when he is next on here. Thank you for your patience, Will

01-02-2004, 01:22 PM
Try this link, which is from Adirondack Explorer, and describes a point to point ski from the Loj to Tahawus thru Avalanche Pass. It has a nice picture, too. It gives a pretty good flavor of the trip.


My friend Bill skied from South Meadow to Avalanche Lake last week with his 13 year old son. He uses cross country skis, and Adam had some 3 pins. Bill said he did not use his skins on this trip. He said there was about 6 inches of packed snow down low and about 2 feet up high. They skied out onto the lake and turned around and came back, 7 hours with a long lunch break. Also, Adam broke his binding and had to bare boot the last 3 miles coming out, which slowed them down, also.

I've been thru twice in the summer, and would love to go this winter, if Jon and I can coordinate our schedules now that he is home from school.

Let us know how your trip went.

01-02-2004, 03:55 PM
Originally posted by prino

Those turns can be pretty ferocious on skinny skis....I ended up on the hiki...........

Ahhhh yes.... When your glasses get all filled with snow, and you miss the cut-off of the ski trail, and go down the hiking trail.. Boy, you go fast! You're thinking, "I didn't think this trail was so steep."

Then, when you come to the stairs, and see the hand rail, you realize your mistake. then come shooting out at the Avalanche Camp lean-to.

And Primo... Teach your kids about minimizing a browser and getting a new browser window. :-)

01-04-2004, 09:52 PM
Wow! Thanks for all the informative responses. I'm *really* looking forward to skiing Avalanche pass.

I'm on the way to check out the web page right now.

It sounds like a safe journey, as far as avalanche conditions are concerned. I'm planning to bring my lightweight tele gear, as this seems to be more of a tour. I hope the weather cooperates, and I have the opportunity to take some breath taking photo's. I'll plan on spending the entire day on the trip.

Thanks again for all your help :)

I hope to meet up with all of you,

01-05-2004, 08:14 AM
Nadine, this is definitely a "tour," all ups and downs. You won't want skins. Whenever we've skied it, the Marcy Dam trail has been in great shape and a lot more fun than the flat truck trail, so I hope it will be better in a couple of weeks than Tony says. A couple of years ago we did see some small avalanches coming down the slide at the pass. No danger, but we scurried through quickly.

01-05-2004, 10:08 AM

I agree with most of the previous replies, light backcountry gear, partial or full meatal edge, will suit you nicely for this trip if you're just planning to go up and back to the Pass. If you think you'll be skiing any of the slides or some of the glades in the area, you may want heavier gear.

The pass is also accessable from Tahawus, the southern approach, via Flowed Lands. Nice alternative to ADK Loj-Marcy Dam route. Likely to be less crowded too.