NY Times: Backcountry Skiing Is Booming in the Northeast. But Can It Survive?


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Ear Drum

Active member
Feb 21, 2023
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South Glastonbury CT
Story is mainly about NH but also discusses VT and ME.

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Backcountry Skiing Is Booming in the Northeast. But Can It Survive?​

Even as more people take up alpine touring on New England’s trails, winters are getting shorter, ‘weather whiplash’ events are eroding the snowpack and natural snow is becoming less reliable.
Jan 19 2024


Less snow also means fewer avalanches, which might seem like a good thing. They can be deadly when triggered by a person, but they also serve to keep terrain open and navigable for skiers and riders.
In New England’s alpine ecosystem, a shallower snowpack and shorter winter is allowing small trees to grow in open gullies. They hold the snow in place, resulting in smaller and less frequent avalanches, which in turn result in more trees and less skiable terrain. Like the so-called ice-albedo effect in polar regions, where a loss of reflective surfaces on the polar ice amplifies a growing climate crisis, the retreat of these ski lines has entered a similar feedback loop. What’s more, climatic changes mean that trees grow at higher elevations — approximately three meters higher every decade for the last four decades — according to a study published in the Journal of Biogeography in January 2023.

... Mark Synnott, 54, a professional skiing and climbing guide and accomplished mountaineer from Jackson, N.H., has watched as some of his favorite ski lines have been reclaimed by the forest. “There are gullies I was skiing just 10 years ago that aren’t really there anymore,” he said. “We used to get these robust avalanche cycles that would clear the terrain out, but now, less snow is resulting in smaller avalanches. Some of these gullies are literally disappearing before my eyes.”

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