The Adirondacks are set to see the warmest temperatures of 2021 so far this weekend. With temperatures creeping into the lower 40s at base elevations and rain expected in some areas, conditions for hikers, backcountry skiers, and other winter recreationists will change significantly.
Variable weather such as is forecast for this weekend can create dynamic conditions for outdoor recreation. Warm days and below freezing temperatures at night create a freeze/thaw cycle that can lead to increased instability in the snowpack and may increase the risk of avalanches.
Hikers and skiers should expect difficult snow conditions with a crusty, icy surface and deep, soft snow underneath. Use extreme caution when traversing slides or steep, open terrain and learn how to prepare for avalanche conditions. Continue using snowshoes and skis to help you stay on the surface of deep snow. Expect terrain not covered in snow to be icy. Use trail crampons where ice is steep and thick.
If you are planning to hike or ski at elevation this weekend, remember that temperatures and conditions will change drastically between the trailhead and the summit. Warm, wet conditions at the base will give way to freezing temperatures and deep snow at high elevations. Dress in appropriate layers and bring extra clothing so you can change into dry layers if you get wet. Be prepared with clothing and gear for all conditions. Build extra time into your plans for changing gear and clothing as needed. Be prepared to turn around at any time if conditions worsen.
While blue sky days make for beautiful outdoor experiences, sun and snow can also be a dangerous combination. Snow blindness occurs when the sun reflects off snow. This can occur on cloudy days as well as clear ones. Not only can this be damaging to your eyes, but it can also make it difficult to see where you are going. Bring eye protection in the form of sunglasses or goggles and cover exposed skin with clothing or sunscreen – you can still get a sunburn even when it’s cold out!
Fifth Lake skier photo by Nancie Battaglia/Almanack archive