If you think about it, mountains with snow would always make avalanches a possibility. But it wasn't until the Department of Environmental Conservation issued some safety tips that the thought even entered my mind.  While avalanches are rare in our part of the world, there's been more than a few and even one fatality.  

This article from The Adirondack Explorer recounts the death of a 27 year old Lake Placid skier, Toma Jacob Vracarich including an interview with a couple who were caught in it too.  It remains the lone avalanche death in the Adirondacks.  Another article from 2010 in the Adirondack Almanack says there have been 14 avalanches in more recent years.

The DEC says February is the month when most avalanches occur and with recent snowfall of 18-26 inches conditions are currently conducive for avalanches.  If your holiday weekend plans include some hiking, snow shoeing or skiing, here are some safety tips:

  • Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on trails and away from steep slopes on summits.
  • Know the terrain, weather and snow conditions.
    Dig multiple snow pits to conduct stability tests –
  • Do not rely on other people’s data.
  • Practice safe route finding and safe travel techniques.
  • Never ski, board, or climb with someone above or below you - only one person on the slope at a time.
  • Ski and ride near trees – not in the center of slides or other open areas.
  • Always carry shovel, probes and transceiver with fresh batteries.
  • Ensure all members of the group know avalanche rescue techniques.
  • Never travel alone.
  • Let someone know where you are going

Here's more information on avalanche safety, recognizing the right conditions and what to do if the unthinkable happens.

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