View Full Version : Avalanche warning in Adirondacks

03-04-2005, 10:10 AM
I just saw this info this morning:


Y'all be careful out there this weekend!


03-04-2005, 10:25 AM
Thanks crazymama. Good info to have!

03-04-2005, 01:05 PM
ahh come on there arent avalanche prone environments in the Dacks..you need big mountains with exposed slides for that :rolleyes: Having a lot of terrain above treeline too. Donttt worry, just come to the Whites if you want to see some real avalanches. -Matt

03-04-2005, 01:22 PM

When I saw the warning I thought about the skier who was killed five years ago in an avalanche in the Adirondacks on Wright peak.

So, unfortunately, it CAN happen in the Adirondacks.

03-04-2005, 01:24 PM
just remember the sad story of the poor skier who lost his life on one of the new slides following hurricane floyd ( wright peak ).i was just through avalanche pass last weekend and that slide does look inviting, but i guess the potential for danger also exists.

03-04-2005, 01:53 PM
The warning referenced by the OP is for the DAKs, but similar conditions exist in the Whites.

Most avalanches occur on slopes between 30 and 60 deg and can occur on slopes down to about 25 deg. (Ref: FOTH)

For most hikers, a good strategy is simply to avoid (and avoid being below) slopes which are steep enough to avalanche. (Many fatal avalanches are triggered by humans, frequently the victims themselves.)

One can estimate the average slope angles from a topo:
* 25 deg = 2460 ft/mi
* 30 deg = 3050 ft/mi
* 45 deg = 5280 ft/mi
* 60 deg = 9150 ft/mi
Make sure you check the steepest part of your route...

The best field method for estimating the slope angle is an inclinometer (built into some high-end compasses) or a simple method using the length of one's ski poles:
* 1/2 pole up and 1 pole horiz: 27 deg
* 1 pole up and 1 pole horiz: 45 deg
* 1 pole up and 1/2 pole horiz: 63 deg

* Ferguson and LaChapelle, "The ABCs of Avalanche Safety"
* "Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills"
* Daffern, "Avalanche Safety for Skiers & Climbers"
* Perla and Martinelli, "Avalanche Handbook"

Formal training is available from a number of sources.

Daily avalanche bulletins for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines are available at http://www.mountwashington.org/avalanche/index.html.
Interesting reading, even if you are not planning on going into the ravines.


Explorer Editor
03-09-2005, 05:20 PM
I wrote an article about Adirondack avalanches for the Adirondack Explorer a while back. You can find it here:


03-09-2005, 08:58 PM
Thanks Phil...good article.

03-17-2005, 10:45 AM
I am planning on climbing the Slide on Wright (via Wright brook) this weekend (first attempt). Is there a source to check avalanche conditions for the area?

03-17-2005, 12:49 PM
that was a really good article phil, thanks.

crazymama, thanks for the DEC link as well. the warning is a bit too generalized and tended toward a general warning for my tastes, but any good info is good info.

i recently read another story (perhaps the same adks paper) about avalanches in the adks which was very informative as well. i think these first hand accounts help to disseminate word of mouth information to the rest of us that are not as in the know about events up there.

i live in NYC and spend time in the adks during winter, and have been looking for sources to increase my knowledge about potential dangers up there especially in the snowpack and slide areas. its not too easy to get information, the best so far has been local knowledge/experience.


considering the blanket DEC warning and given WP's history, you may want to rethink your plan especially if you are not capable of assessing avalanche conditions on your own. as far as i know, other than the DEC link above, there is no formal warning system in the high peaks area, so you will need to be independently capable of avalanche terrain assessment.

you can certainly get some info from the rangers in the loj or along the way in the park, but my experience with most of them is that they will generally dissuade you from entering such areas, not give you real valuable terrain assessments. which is not really part of their job, and hence understandable.

Explorer Editor
03-17-2005, 01:10 PM
I skied the Kilburn slide last weekend. The rock was coated with a half inch or more of clear ice, I assume from the rain we had a few weeks ago. I thought I was going to slide right off the mountain in a few places. I don't know if the same conditions exist on other slides. But if they do and if we get a big snowfall, the ice could act as a sliding layer. However, we have yet to get a big snowfall this winter. :mad:

03-17-2005, 01:21 PM
i boarded kilburn 3/6. the conditions were pretty good then, a nice 4-8" creamy layer of light snow, though the ice bulges and rocks were still present in some locations as always.

shame to hear about the recent rain out. when was it? was it very damaging to the preexisting snowpack?

how did you go up the 1st headwall/icebulge? sounds like the woods wouldn't have been too much fun with a potential layer of rime on them.

Explorer Editor
03-17-2005, 03:14 PM
I believe we got the rain a few days after your trip. There is still snow on the slide, but in many places it's just fairly light snow over glare ice. Often when I made a turn my skis pushed away the snow right down to the ice, and I'd go skidding down the mountain. (I'm an intermediate skier; I'm sure an expert would do better.) I didn't have crampons, so I climbed through the woods to get above the headwall. With little snow, the ascent was quite slippery with tele boots.

03-17-2005, 03:55 PM
Thanks for posting that article, Phil. I remember that incident really well, since I know some of the people involved in both the incident and the rescue.

I was at Whiteface that day, patrolling at the Goodwill Games. To Mark M.'s point, it was a fluke condition. There had been a bunch of fresh snow the night before, and the sun was particularly warm and strong in the morning (Wright's slides face East). I remember saying to my wife (also patrolling at the games) as we rode the lift "I sure wouldn't want to be out on a slide today."

I think for a given slope, the risk of avalanches is the same here as out West. We just don't have as many open slopes. When you're on one, you have to respect it. I know the group did take some care, and you can't apply hindsight to their decisions. As I understand the story, the lead skier skied the slope, and it appeared OK. When the remaining several (4 or 5) skiers skied it at the same time, it released. So in retrospect, this was a "one at a time" slope (the advantage of one at a time being that you're less likely to trigger the slide, and if it goes, only one person is hit, and the other's can rescue. In this case, the whole group was hit).

But it's hard to know how careful to be. Like anything else, experience, and one's own risk tolerance are the factors.

Corn snow is coming, which is much less likely to slide.

03-17-2005, 04:50 PM

i agree with your point about the open slopes here on the east coast. any slope in that 25-45 degree range has avy potential. IMO, the slides in the adks have unique avalanche potential since they often do not have any natural anchors for the snow to adhere. the bond between ice on the slide and the snow layers seems very critical.

just curious, do you remember or know whether the WP slide fractured to the bed surface, or was the avalanche only the new layer of snow? if my memory serves from the report i read recently, one of those involved in the slide reported seeing the surface of the slide after it released. this seems to indicate a weak layer somewhere in the snowpack, beyond the weak bond of the new snow.

03-17-2005, 10:20 PM
I don't remember that detail. I know it was a fairly thick fracture, but I can't remember if it went the full thickness of the snowpack.

03-18-2005, 08:03 AM
Recent Posters... the DEC warning was for March 4.