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This Weekend in the Adirondacks

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John Warren of the Adirondack Almanack checks in each Friday morning with a look at outdoor recreation conditions around the Adirondacks for the weekend.

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John Warren
Adirondack Correspondent

This is John Warren from the Adirondack Almanack with your look at outdoor recreation conditions around the Adirondacks for this weekend.

The January thaw knocked-down the snowpack, raised the levels of rivers and streams and left some trail areas bare, or flooded by standing water.

With the return of cold weather, most trails have received some light snow and there is remains several feet of snow at higher elevations. Today will be very cold (with wind chill values in the mid-20s below zero on summits), a situation which will create a good deal of ice on trails. Snowshoes will be needed, along with crampons or other traction devices. 

Snow amounts vary around the region with elevation. The lower elevations are thin (4 to 6 inches) with some bare patches, areas of ice and 3 or 4 inches of fresh snow on top. Middle elevations have more snow, about 8 to 12 inches, but that snow can be hard, or heavily crusted over. Recent high waters have flushed drainages leaving little or no snow there and higher elevations have about 18 inches or more snow with a hard crust. Backcountry users should expect changes in snow conditions and some difficult crust situations.

Rivers and streams are currently falling, but remain well-above normal with the contribution of recent snow melt. Backcoutry users should expect the possibility of rising waters, especially in the afternoons, as snow pack melts during the day on Saturday and Sunday. Low water crossings may not be accessible and ice or snow bridges, especially at lower elevations, may be hazardous if not impossible to cross.

The recent thaw made already poor ice conditions worse and as many as a dozen people and several vehicles have gone through the ice in the past week; one man on a snowmobile drowned in the Grasse River; two anglers were rescued after their atv went through the ice on Lake Colby; and four anglers went through ice on Lake Champlain.

Ice is thinner than usual for this time of year with layers of water and slush. No ice should be considered safe without first checking its depth and quality and ice over running water, near outlets and inlets and along shorelines should be avoided. Use extreme caution on ice.

DEC has issued a statement that ski travel is NOT recommended in the High Peaks due to icy drainages, obstacles and frozen postholes.  Generally only the smoother terrain is recommended and best opportunities continue to be the early season routes, including Connery Pond, the Whiteface Highway, Newcomb Lake, Fish Pond, and Hays Brook, and Raquette Falls.

In the High Peaks, the road to Lower Ausable Lake remains skiable but not the trail to Johns Brook Lodge. The hiking trail from Adirondak Loj to Marcy Dam is no longer skiable, but the Marcy Dam Truck Trail is still skible. Avalanche Pass is no longer considered skiable beyond the top of the pass. There is enough ice to cross Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden, but avoid the inlets, outlets, and shorelines. Mount Marcy is still skiable above the 50 meter bridge, but not below. The Wright Peak Ski Trail is skiable above the junction with the hiking trail. The Calamity Brook Trail is reported unskiable and ice in the Flowed Lands is very thin and may not be crossable

The Jackrabbit Trail remains marginal at the Saranac Lake end to McKenzie Pond Road and some thin sections on the golf courses, but the whole trail should be skiable this weekend with a 2 to 10 inch base.

Cross country conditions are good to fair and all cross-country ski areas will be open this weekend with a 2 to 6 inches of base.  Better conditions are going to be found at higher elevations facilities.

Conditions are very good at Gore and Whiteface who are reporting about 80 percent of their terrain open, the operations at smaller mountains have been scaled back with the warming, although they  have about half of their terrain open, that is with the continued exception of Hickory Mountain in Warrensburg, which has not yet opened.

Snowmobile conditions are marginal to fair with most clubs are asking riders to refrain from using the trails until we receive more snow. Trails in Washington County and Southern Warren County are closed. There is better riding toward Indian Lake and some grooming at Long Lake, but elsewhere there are icy conditions, continued wet spots, and some bare areas. There is a marginal base, which will improve the possibility of better conditions with new snow.

Ice climbing conditions also deteriorated rapidly with the thaw and have left conditions dicey, with best being the North Side of Pitchoff, Chapel Pond and Cascade Pass, where a few routes remain open. Conditions should improve as this new cold snap takes hold.

Those are the local outdoor conditions in the Adirondacks for this weekend, for North Country Public Radio, this is John Warren from the Adirondack Explorer’s Adirondack Almanack, online at www.AdirondackAlmanack.com.

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