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Snowshoe Requirement In Adirondacks/NY

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  • Snowshoe Requirement In Adirondacks/NY

    At long last I finally did my first Winter hike in the Adirondacks SAT (Giant via the Ridge Trail - what a great hike!) and had a question regarding the snow shoe requirement/regulation/law I had read about awhile back. I apologize in advance if I have the wrong forum for this question but I have seen it alluded to in several other posts on this forum so I'm guessing it is "in bounds" here. And before this devolves into a post holing thread nightmare let me quickly point out I am concerned specifically about the legality of the rule, i.e. if a ranger stopped me on the trail what would be the process, not a philosophical debate about snow shoes and their merits. I carry and wear snowshoes when the conditions warrant.

    As I understood the rule, snowshoes were "required if there was more than 6 inches of snow". Does that mean from bare ground? 6 inches of new snow on a well packed out track? What if conditions don't warrant snow shoe use, such as a well packed trail with frequent icy ledge areas? SAT I went up the Ridge Trail on Giant. Was the 2nd person out. Put snowshoes on at the car and wore all the way to the summit, although if I had been in NH I would have been in spikes or crampons. Trail was very firm and packed and had a lot of icy, steep sections that were really awkward and more dangerous in snowshoes. Two people passed me on the way up, one in snowshoes and one in crampons (who confessed to be a NY local who had stopped wearing snow shoes a long time ago because they are rarely needed on the popular trails.) On the summit I switched to crampons because I personally felt the conditions, particularly descending, did not warrant snow shoes and I wasn't going to compromise my safety with a black and white interpretation of the rules. If a ranger saw me and fined me so be it. On the way down I passed tons of people heading up. I'd say maybe 25% of them were wearing snowshoes and the rest microspikes. I don't believe anyone in spikes had snowshoes strapped to their packs but maybe I missed one or two people. Other than the guy I passed earlier I think I was the only person in crampons. Being a very popular trail and a SAT I'd expect if a ranger would be out this would be a likely place to run into one.

    So, let's ignore for hypothetical purposes the fact that I was much more prepared than virtually everyone else in terms of traction and he could easily have focused on all the spike wearing folks before me. But if I was met by a ranger descending in crampons is he/she within their rights to fine me for not wearing snowshoes simply because of the 6 inch requirement? Is it that black and white or does discretion factor in to the decision? It's against the law to speed on Rte 87 but most cars are somewhat over the 65 mph speed limit, cruise right past a state trooper and nothing happens. But, if they wanted they could pull you over for doing 66 mph in a 65 mph and fine you. I guess I'm trying to get a sense of the practicality of the rule given what I have read about rule enforcement in NY as opposed to the "lawlessness" I have come to enjoy in NH. Guess I would prefer some context to the law/rule. At the end of the day I'll always do what makes sense from a safety perspective.

  • #2
    Historically, the magic number has been 8. You're required to have snowshoes on your person if 8" or more of snow exists in the area in which you're traveling through the back country. If the HPIC has two inches and the summit you're heading to has three inches, but the area in between has a foot present, then enforcement is going to be up to the discretion of the Ranger/DEC officer that you encounter. That being said, go by what the DEC currently says on their site, and average that out with common sense. Currently they advise using them. You know you have to pack them, and you know when to use them.
    • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis is required in the High Peaks Wilderness when the terrain is covered with eight inches or more of snow. https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9198.html
    Regarding your NH lawlessness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYivAQbYfoQ

    Edit: Just some food of thought: a lot of people who hike in the ADK in the winter are ignorant and selfish. Even if you'd had to break trail through a foot or more of snow most of your way to the summit, that particular trail still would have been covered in bare-booters and people in those not-for-mountaineering Kahtoolas. You're obviously more considerate and more observant than them. Use your best judgement, but have your flotation devices with you.
    My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.

    Comment


    • DayTrip
      DayTrip commented
      Editing a comment
      Everybody loves that Hitler video! See it several times a Winter. So long story short, they require you to be prepared for anything but it isn't a black and white thing. Good to know. Thanks for the clarification. I'm an experienced hiker and do the vast majority of my hiking in the Whites of NH. I also hike alone so I am always well prepared for the known and the unknown (I had an ice axe with me on Giant SAT). And regarding your edit, being inconsiderate of the trails is not a mindset confined to NY. That is all over the Northeast.

    • FlyFishingandBeer
      FlyFishingandBeer commented
      Editing a comment
      DayTrip Right. I guess the TL;DR version is that the law is black and white, but the enforcement is a myriad of grayscale. Sounds like you had a good day in the peaks though! Glad that worked out for you.

  • #3
    Originally posted by DayTrip View Post
    Two people passed me on the way up, one in snowshoes and one in crampons (who confessed to be a NY local who had stopped wearing snow shoes a long time ago because they are rarely needed on the popular trails.)
    And who provided that nice packed track for the guy wearing the crampons. Not him, the snowshoers did. Just saying

    Comment


    • #4
      Keep in mind what brought about the regulation. It's about avoiding postholes. Postholes are dangerous for the postholer, in that you will tire quickly and may end up exhausted and "stuck" with a long way to go or to return. Secondly, uneven postholes are dangerous for anyone following, either on skis or snowshoes. 8 inches of snow depth seems to be a reasonable number to when the worst effects begin to happen.

      Keep in mind also that most rangers are good guys (and gals) Their first priority is ensuring safety of outdoor users closely followed by protection of the environment. Most would much rather educate than to immediately write a ticket. Of course an argument over a regulation is the fastest way to get a ticket.
      Last edited by Nessmuk; 02-25-2019, 01:49 PM.
      "Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do you will be certain to find something you have never seen before." - Alexander Graham Bell

      Comment


      • #5
        Thanks for wearing your shoes and doing the right thing. Lots of times it's more about keeping the trail in good shape more than it is about snow depth. I've done many, many trails where the snow was deep enough for the requirement of shoes, but they were marginal in their practicality. I wear them anyway. Again, it's about keeping the trail in good shape and courtesy. Barebooters on a well-packed trail can degrade it over time.

        Comment


        • #6
          One would hope that it would not be a "black and white" interpretation on the part of the rangers and if you ran in to them DayTrip while out there, hopefully they would take in to account trail conditions when assessing your footwear, regardless of the law or the weekly DEC report.

          Comment


          • DayTrip
            DayTrip commented
            Editing a comment
            No I was referring to hikes over the past two Summers. Not holidays but they were Saturdays and they were some of the popular peaks like Marcy, Algonquin, Cascade, etc. I've never seen that in NH on even the most popular summits or parking lots.

          • gebby
            gebby commented
            Editing a comment
            DayTrip The ADK, the 46ers, the DEC, the Adirondack Council are all getting more active with interacting with hikers in the front country to make sure they're out there recreating safely and respectfully. I did a traverse from Crawford Notch to Franconia Notch October of 2017 and did meet a trailhead steward in the parking lot there, so I wouldn't say that there isn't any education going on in lawless NH! :P

          • DayTrip
            DayTrip commented
            Editing a comment
            No there have been some programs lately. Franconia Loop obviously sees an absurd amount of hikers every weekend so they have focused some effort there.
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