No announcement yet.

The Snowshoe Debate

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The Snowshoe Debate

    Lots of discussion going on in other threads, seems like it's time to consolidate and focus

    Seems to be 2 camps:
    1) By the books, 8 inches of snow on the ground, shoes on your feet camp
    2) the wear them when logic dictates the choice camp

    Should we start a survey? Are folks scared to state their true preferences here? I will say, I'm a snowshoe guy. I put em on in November and keep em on till April sometimes. I love the idea of creating and maintaining a nice, flat and solid track for all to enjoy. I bet the skiers appreciate it too.

    I've also noticed tons of folks stick with spikes or trail crampons, and to be honest, conditions on a well-packed high peaks trail are really conducive to the use of these products.

    My recent experience: The trail into the Seward's was all post-holed to s%$t from several guys hiking in bare-booted during the rainy thaw day on Friday. Since the snow pack had hardened again, icy, stumbly craters had formed. I think we can all stand in unity shunning these individuals hahaha.
    Crepuscular Rays: Dissolve into evergreens

    There's always gonna be another mountain
    I'm always gonna wanna make it move
    Always gonna be an uphill battle
    Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
    Ain't about how fast I get there
    Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side...
    It's the climb
    -Miley Cyrus

  • #2
    I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Crepuscular for allowing me to hijack his thread. I sent him a PM apologizing for doing so, and offering to have the moderators split it into another thread, but he very graciously invited me to carry on.
    Do we want this thread to lead us somewhere meaningful? Perhaps to where we truly understand the regulation and it's application, so that we can from this date forward head to the wintry mountains willing, able, and ready to follow the regulation, to the letter when necessary, and in spirit always? Are we ready to abandon our preconceived biases and live by what we learn? If so, then I'm in.

    But we're starting the conversation at a serious disadvantage. Some important background is necessary before a meaningful discussion can take place. We could talk all day about our opinions on whether a specific set of snow conditions dictates use of snowshoes, etc, etc. But in the end we have a list of opinions. We won't know anything more about the regulation or it's application. Our opinions are meaningless without a firm understanding of certain things. Including, but probably not limited to
    • what the regulation states
    • why the regulation exists
    • how does DEC interpret the gray areas of the regulation

    What does the regulation state? That's the easy part -

    Regulations - New York State Register and Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (NYCRR)
    Chapter II - Lands and Forests
    Part 190: Use Of State Lands
    190.13 Wilderness Areas in the Adirondack Park
    f. Miscellaneous restrictions.
    3. In the High Peaks Wilderness Area, no person shall:
    vii. fail to possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow

    So, the powers that be felt that people should be wearing snowshoes (or skis, but let's lump the two into the single word - snowshoes)., But why? There must have been some negative impact resulting from people NOT wearing snowshoes. Well, I'd have to ask somebody who has the answer. Not that I don't have my opinion. But I don't know that it's correct. Probably most, if not all, of us can only conjecture on why the regulation exists. Some of us know (or think we know) bits and pieces. A few of us might even be darned sure of it. I won't offer my inputs until I confirm them with DEC. Because otherwise we're just chit-chatting and getting nowhere. We do want this conversation to GO somewhere, remember? But without a good grasp of the "why" the discussion will lack proper context and lead us nowhere. We need to bring in the experts.

    As for the DEC interpretation of the gray areas, this is where the irrelevance of OUR opinions becomes apparent. We can think whatever we want, but DEC will enforce the regulations based on guidelines and experience that they have developed over HUNDREDS of man-years of effort. It's what these people eat, breathe, and sleep. They know their stuff. We like to think we're smart enough to figure it out for ourselves. If so then we should think again. Once again, we need to bring in the experts.

    Along those lines, I have already begun a conversation with DEC. My recent posts in other threads have been guided by those conversations. And the need to continue those conversations and hopefully develop a constructive relationship with the DEC folks has become apparent, at least to some of us here and at DEC.

    Even though we don't yet have much in the way of required background, we can still develop a list of questions that we want to ask the DEC. If we're all willing to be serious about it, I'm still in.

    We all know that DEC personnel monitor these forums. At least one of our members is a DEC employee. If they see that we are serious about asking meaningful questions, that we are not going to be sidetracked with off-topic or irrelevant remarks, that we want to understand the regulation with a willingness to apply what we learn, then I'm still in.

    Because I have already established contact with DEC I will, in this thread, for the most part assume the role of consolidating everyone's replies into a list of questions, concerns, suggestions, whatever. I will occasionally request clarification from contributors if I am uncertain as to their meaning. At some point, to be determined, I will ask for a sit down with a DEC representative to get clarification.
    Last edited by randomscooter; 02-26-2014, 09:58 AM.
    Scooting here and there
    Through the woods and up the peaks
    Random Scoots awaits (DP)

    Eat, sleep, hike, repeat.

    It doesn't have to be viewtiful to be beautiful. (NL)

    "Pushing the limits of easy."


    • #3
      I've taken the liberty to copy the following post from another thread. It is representative of the tone and content that I believe should be in this thread.

      Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
      Please keep us informed of any developments.

      This is an interesting debate and merits its own thread.

      One of the major problems of formulating a rule with many exceptions is that it leaves too much room for interpretation. A rule that unequivocally states you must wear snowshoes when there's more than 8" of snow pack is easier to enforce.

      The problem with the simplest version of the rule is that it obliges you to use equipment that may be wholly inappropriate for the conditions. The woods may have 3 feet of unconsolidated snow but the trail is 6" of snowcrete. All your boots leave are imprints of their treads and nothing more. Under these conditions, microspikes are more than adequate for the task but the rule says otherwise. When a rule defies logic, it is likely to be broken (even by normally law-abiding folks).

      Perhaps the rule needs to state that you must have snowshoes when there's 8" or more of snow and worn to avoid creating holes (greater than 2" deep). If you can walk on the snowy trail without creating holes, you're fine. Perhaps some sort of clarification along these lines can be discussed with the DEC.

      FWIW, I'd like to know the original reason for the rule's creation. Was it in the interests of public safety so the DEC would not have to rescue snowshoeless hikers stranded by a snowstorm? To protect skiers from swiss-cheese trails? Why is it not applied to all Adirondack trails?
      Scooting here and there
      Through the woods and up the peaks
      Random Scoots awaits (DP)

      Eat, sleep, hike, repeat.

      It doesn't have to be viewtiful to be beautiful. (NL)

      "Pushing the limits of easy."


      • #4
        Another related post copied from another thread. Note that the content is based on a conversation with DEC, but that I am NOT claiming that my understanding is 100% accurate. If anyone has questions about the content then PLEASE ASK THEM!!! The purpose of this thread is to come to a solid and accurate understanding of this topic.

        Originally posted by randomscooter View Post
        DEC is very serious about enforcing the laws on the trails, the trailheads, and throughout their jurisdication. Including the snowshoe law. I only state this having just this morning spoken at length with a local ranger about this very topic.

        I got the impression from the conversation that they are properly staffed for the territory being covered. But they unfortunately have to deal with far too many violations. There's a lot of misbehaving going on out there and people shouldn't get the impression that DEC can't be bothered with certain types of violations.

        Perhaps (or perhaps not) the odds of running into a ranger while you are on the trail may not be all that high, but is THAT the criterion that a conscientious hiker would use when making decisions that fall outside the law?

        There should be no eagerness to violate the law; to the contrary, there should be a hesitancy. Before you violate the law ask yourself what a ranger would have to say if he/she met you along the trail. Would your explanation be satisfactory to the ranger?

        Whenever behavior is codified into law a gray area is created. It is the responsibility of the enforcement officer to interpret each situation and determine if that situation falls within or outside that gray area. It seems prudent that the individual should do the same so as to avoid being in violation without justifiable reason.

        Many factors are taken into consideration, not the least being the attitude of the violator. But assuming the violator acts respectfully, perhaps the single most important consideration is safety.

        In the case of the snowshoe law the question should be framed this way... Is it UNSAFE to be wearing snowshoes? If it is not unsafe then snowshoes should be worn. If it is unsafe then the ranger may well agree that a safe alternative to snowshoes (such as crampons) is appropriate. In extremely hazardous conditions the ranger is within his/her responsibilities to conclude that the only safe alternative is to stay off the trails altogether. This is extremely rare, but does happen.

        Note that the question
        • "Is it UNSAFE to be wearing snowshoes?"

        is not the same as the question
        • "Is it SAFE to not be wearing snowshoes?"

        Nor is it the same as the question
        • "Will <fill-in-the-blank> work better for me than snowshoes?"

        • "Was the trail getting damaged?"

        The law really isn't about the personal comfort of the individual, it's about the benefit to the collective. It's about recognizing that the resource is shared with others.

        And it's also not about personal opinions on whether the trail is getting damaged.

        It's about actively choosing to NOT contribute to conditions that may (not will) create a hazard for others. And not just the hikers who would be next on the trail, or on the trail that day, but also those who may be on the trail days or even weeks later. Post holes made in wet powder may likely be smoothed over by the next hikers (although that certainly doesn't justify post holing). But if no other hikers go through, and a change in temperatures (even days later) causes those post holes to be frozen in place, then they become a real hazard.
        Scooting here and there
        Through the woods and up the peaks
        Random Scoots awaits (DP)

        Eat, sleep, hike, repeat.

        It doesn't have to be viewtiful to be beautiful. (NL)

        "Pushing the limits of easy."


        • #5
          One Caveat: The above quoted rule/law only applies to the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The OP could be applied to other areas where this rule is not in effect.

          I am in the logical use camp, but most of my experience is outside of the HP area. That being said, the postholing I have experienced is generally worse in other areas than in the HP area. Common sense isn't that common, so a rule such as this seems to be a good thing is at least somewhat effective.
          I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.

          - E. B. White


          • #6
            Might try posting this over at the other forum. Seen how it is the law in EHP and not a lot of discussion on here outside of HPW, GMW, or DW where the 46ers are, it isn't going to go anywhere IMO.

            I'm on the other side of the fence from most on here. Most of my hiking, skiing and other activities are within the ADKs but outside of the EHP where such regulations exist.

            I wear snowhoes, if not then it is skis, even with a small amount of snow. They are comfortable on my feet and I like the traction aid of the crampons. Trail crampons hurt my feet, so they usually stay in my pack unless I need them. Last time I did, I forgot them

            I honestly keep thinking about getting some microspikes but I'd probably only use them if there wasn't enough snow cover to use snowshoes, in which case, I use light snowshoes if I need traction. I've used the trail crampons in these conditions as well but they are too uncomfortable to wear for long distances.

            I agree, when actually climbing, you should use the right tool for the job. When on flat trails I think you should tend toward a snowshoe or ski for etiquette reasons - and if you are falling down on flat terrain with snowshoes, then maybe climbing isn't something you should be doing. If you are putting on spikes in lieu of snowshoes for speed, then you should consider skis.

            I think that seems most logical to me, and should apply on any trail, not just where it is enforced as law.


            • #7
              My pet peeve is when you are coming up or down a trail and the person who chose not to wear snowshoes can't step off the trail . If you can't step off the trail because the snow is too deep then that is a clear indication that you should have snowshoes on regardless of the rules .

              I prefer snowshoes ... I think you can summit most if not all the high peaks in snowshoes. I never even owned microspikes until last year. They are a great addition to Winter gear but they have their limitations. If there is even a few inches of snow I am wearing snowshoes = better traction , less work and much safer.

              ppl always discuss the rule and refer to keeping the trails nice for skiers but I think there is also a basis for safety. Post holing can cause unnecessary injury requiring unnecessary man hours for rescue . I'm not sure but that is my opinion
              Not all those who wander are lost....JRR Tolkien


              • #8
                Originally posted by haderondah_wild View Post
                Might try posting this over at the other forum. Seen how it is the law in EHP and not a lot of discussion on here outside of HPW, GMW, or DW where the 46ers are, it isn't going to go anywhere IMO.
                EHP is Eastern High Peaks. The EHP is the core of the High Peaks and this is the ADKHighPeaks forum. Perhaps you thought I had posted this on the ADKforum? No harm done, in any case.

                Btw, the remainder of your post makes good sense. It'll be interesting to see how such a common sense position stacks up against how the rangers interpret the law.
                Scooting here and there
                Through the woods and up the peaks
                Random Scoots awaits (DP)

                Eat, sleep, hike, repeat.

                It doesn't have to be viewtiful to be beautiful. (NL)

                "Pushing the limits of easy."


                • #9
                  I'll give my opinion, but it's only that.

                  I think for a regulation/rule to be consistently enforceable, it has to be specific, objective, and measurable. "8 inches of snow or more depth" meets those criteria, "the surface has to be hard enough that not wearing snowshoes doesn't damage the trail" does not. So that's how the rule is written. As an analogy, every baseball fans knows that the height of the strike zone is from the knees to the letters, except that if you read the actual rule, there's no mention of "the letters", for obvious reasons; they can be placed arbitrarily on the uniform by the team.

                  So how the rule is written isn't necessarily how it's enforced. After the kind of thaw/freeze cycles we've had, when the trail firms up hard as a rock and crampons/microspikes are the better (safer) choice and don't pock-mark the trail, I can't imagine a ranger hassling you for using them. Of course, I'm sure he'd always want to see you carrying snowshoes, because a mile up the trail conditions could be pretty different.

                  But, I guess we'd need to talk to a ranger to confirm that


                  • #10
                    I wholeheartedly agree it will be easier to talk about this rule if we knew why it was implemented and why it was limited to the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

                    I can speculate about it being in place to minimize winter-time rescues, or prevent skiing accidents, and a whole lot more but knowing the real reason(s) would be best.

                    As it stands, the rule provides no wiggle room even when snow conditions are bullet-proof. That makes for easy enforcement but fails to recognize trail conditions that simply do not require "anti-sinking" technology. As a result, it is not "real world logical" and subject to being ignored by people in the real world.

                    I fully recognize there are people who break the rule, and post-hole, because they don't own snowshoes, don't like snowshoes, forgot them, or simply don't care about rules. If they swiss-cheese the trail, throw the book at 'em. But if you have snowshoes and the conditions don't merit their use (no post-holing) then the rule should allow for this scenario. It currently does not but that's where I'd like to see it go.

                    How does one lobby for changes to DEC rules?
                    Looking for Views!


                    • #11
                      I was wondering the same thing that TrailBoss mentions. Is 8" the snow in the trail or in the woods?


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Teleskier View Post
               the rule is written isn't necessarily how it's enforced. .. when the trail firms up hard as a rock and crampons/microspikes are the better.. I can't imagine a ranger hassling you for using them. ..
                        I feel the same way but then I remember an old post (somewhere here) where the individual was cited by a ranger for wearing crampons instead of snowshoes, which he had, despite his insistence that the conditions merited crampons. Now, there may be more to this story than was reported (or I recall) but, at face value, it's an example of the law being enforced to the letter.
                        Looking for Views!


                        • #13
                          I have already weighed in on this debate on another thread, so I shant go into great detail here.

                          The law is the law, and should be followed. Not to the letter, however. If we did that, then changing into crampons or microspikes for a steep section which is covered with snow & ice would be illegal. Perhaps technically it is. However, it is common sense to use them in such a situation, and no DEC personnel (perhaps I am wrong?) would do anything but commend such a person for being properly equipped.

                          That being said, snowshoes/skis should otherwise be used, so long as there is sufficient snow depth.

                          Does that mean that one has to don said item(s) for a 2-ft drift that happened to have blown across the trail? OF COURSE NOT.

                          The point of the law, IMHO, is to protect both the parties and the trail (and future parties). Use common sense. Do what is necessary to protect yourself and the trail. Wear traction aids as appropriate.
                          High peaks: Summer: 46/46 (1st iteration); 29/46 (2nd); 11/46 (3rd); 7/46 (4th) Winter: 7/46 (1st); 1/46 (2nd)

                          The other 56: Summer: 55/56 (1st); 12/56 (2nd); 4/56 (3rd); 3/56 (4th) Winter: 13/56 (1st); 3/56 (2nd); 1/56 (3rd); 4th (0/56)


                          • #14
                            I have edited my first post in this thread, at the bottom, to indicate the role I hope to play in this thread. My thought is that if people see that their comments will be going somewhere that more responses will be forthcoming.
                            Scooting here and there
                            Through the woods and up the peaks
                            Random Scoots awaits (DP)

                            Eat, sleep, hike, repeat.

                            It doesn't have to be viewtiful to be beautiful. (NL)

                            "Pushing the limits of easy."


                            • #15
                              Clown shoes make everything both fun and lighthearted...

                              Plus, I like the way they make my butt look...
                              This post is for entertainment purposes only.