The last few storms have deepened the snowpack (for some of us!) but the wild swings in temperature led to some instability. The snowpack is never happy with rapid change. Last Saturday, two skiers on Wright Peak in the Adirondacks had a very close call after triggering an avalanche on the Angel Slides. Both skiers were caught and buried, but one skier was able to self-rescue, locate the other skier with a beacon search and dig him out. The skier’s were properly equipped and well-practiced in avalanche search & rescue techniques, but were fortunate as it is very rare to be able to self-extricate a full burial in avalanche debris. More details are available in the news article linked here.
Backcountry enthusiasts in the Adirondacks don’t have the luxury of US Forest Service Snow Rangers or the Mount Washington Avalanche Center that we have in the Presidentials, but New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation releases occasional advisories. They also recommend contacting State Forest Rangers for the latest local information. The latest advisory from Feb 3 is linked here and warned of avalanche risk based on the 3-4 feet of recent snow in the Adirondack High Peaks region.
The lack of official avalanche forecasts led two local Adirondack skiers to develop a website to collect snowpack and avalanche observations from the backcountry community. adkavy.org has a description of the “red flags” noted the day of the incident including whumpfing , collapsing and signs of recent avalanches. The entire 100 foot width of the slide released and ran about 1500 feet. The two skiers were carried about 150 feet, with one buried 1-2 feet deep and the second at a depth of 4-5 feet.
While luck played a role in this incident, the skiers had the equipment and training to respond., If you’re going to play in avalanche terrain make sure you are similarly prepared. You can check out the NSP avalanche course offerings at patrollerschool.org
Stay safe out there and think snow!