It’s legal to ski any trail in the Forest Preserve, but many are too narrow, too steep, and/or too rocky to be negotiated with boards attached to your feet.
There are some trails in the Forest Preserve that were designed for skiing. Examples include the Avalanche Pass Ski Trail, the Wright Peak Ski Trail, and the Raymond Brook Ski Trail. However, they are few and far between even though backcountry skiing has grown in popularity — thanks, in part, to better equipment.
The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan defines a “cross country ski trail” as a marked trail designed for skiing and snowshoeing “which has the same dimensions and character and may also serve as a foot trail.”
Under the APA’s proposal, this would not change. In essence, however, the guidelines define three types of ski trails along with standards for maintaining them.
Nordic ski trails
These are the easiest routes, traversing gentle terrain. “The trails will be designed with speeds associated with beginner skiing as a distinguishing characteristic,” the proposal reads. “Gentle curves and mild slopes will require a limited ability to control speed and navigate variable terrain.”
The APA recommends that such trails be cleared to six feet wide for one-way traffic and eight feet wide for two-way traffic. If the grade exceeds 10 percent, they may be cleared up to twelve feet wide.
The average grade would be 4 percent to 10 percent, with a maximum grade of 20 percent.
Examples of existing trails that meet these criteria include the Hays Brook Truck Trail in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest and the Old Farm Clearing Trail in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.
Backcountry ski trails
These are more challenging trails, with significant downhills. “Curves and slopes on the trails will require an ability to control speed and navigate variable terrain,” the proposal states.
Backcountry ski trails could be cleared to a width of eight feet for one-way traffic and ten feet for two-way traffic. If the grade exceeds 10 percent, they could be cleared up to twelve feet wide.
The average grade would be 10 percent to 30 percent, with a maximum of 40 percent.
Examples of existing routes that fit the criteria are the Wright Peak, Avalanche Pass, and Mr. Van ski trails.
The guidelines call for bridges over streams on both Nordic and backcountry ski trails.
These would be used to access slides and other skiable terrain. They would be “developed with a steady climb that enables skiers to gain elevation at a sustainable pace. … Kick turns should be developed where features, like tops of rocks and buried stumps, create benches and flat terrain exists.” Skin tracks would be designed only for uphill travel and limited to four feet in width.
The proposal also encourages land managers to take into account skiing when maintaining existing trails. It notes that some improvements on hiking trails, such as rock water bars and bog bridging, can pose obstacles to skiers. “To create conducive facilities for backcountry skiing, the needs of skiers must be considered throughout trail planning and management process. Although there are many options for making existing trails more conducive for backcountry skiing, not every trail will be managed for this use.”
Note: Tony Goodwin’s guidebook Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks recommends a number of trails that are suitable for skiing.
It’s noteworthy that the proposal contains no recommendations for maintaining open-woods routes (or glades) for skiing—a type of use pushed by the Adirondack Powder Skier Association. Kevin Prickett, an APA planner, said the agency postponed action on this because of legal questions over tree cutting. Ron Konowitz, the president of the association, told the Adirondack Explorer that he hopes the open-woods proposal will move forward in 2016.
Comments on the proposed ski-trail guidelines can be sent to [email protected] or mailed to the Adirondack Park Agency or state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Click the link below to read the guidelines in PDF format.
A skier skins up the Wright Peak Ski Trail (Adirondack Explorer file photo).