A recent reversal in the region's winter weather pattern, earlier in the week, ushered in a mix of steady rain and high winds. The brief thaw served to further compact an already dense snowpack.
Last weekend, I spent most of my time skiing the backcountry, where I discovered conditions were beyond ideal. The deep snowpack, which had been secured with a thick upper crust that permitted quick and easy travel for skiers and 'shoers alike.
In the upper elevations, the accumulated snowpack of about five to six feet made it easy to travel through areas of thick foliage and over heavy blowdown.
Such conditions allow travelers to cover alot of territory off trail that includes swamps, wetland bogs, and thick balsam summits that are usually inaccessable at other times of the year.
Backcounty skiers return to the valley
Hopefully, snow condictions will hold up for the coming weekend, as outdoor enthusiasts will again flock to Keene Valley for The Mountaineer's Ninth Annual Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival.
The annual gathering, a benefit event that supports both the New York State Ski Education Foundation's Nordic racing programs and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, stewards of famous Jackrabbit Trail, features a wide range of backcountry ski tours that are hosted by local backcountry guides and a series of demos and mini clinics that will be held at Otis Mountain in Elizabethtown.
On Saturday evening, Heather Paul, a Marmot athlete, ski racer and winter mountaineer who has tackled snow covered terrain ranging from in Alaska to China, and many points between, will deliver a presentation and slide show. The event will hosted at the Keene Valley Firehall and the public is welcome to attend. Admission is $10/per person.
As usual, the gathering will include demos and mini clinics hosted at Otis Mountain in Elizabethtown on Saturday. Otis is a private ski area that offers a great venue for testing out the latest skis and boots as well as clinics on skinning, telemark skiing and more. Mini-clinics and demos will be free of charge! For further information, please contact The Mountaineer at 576-2281.
For members of the non-skiing public, the region still has plenty to offer for the coming weekend. There will be action on the ice in many local communities with Ice Fishing Derbies scheduled in Schroon Lake, Cranberry Lake, Long Lake and Saranac Lake, where the 27th annual Colby Classic will be hosted on both Saturday and Sunday.
It's never too soon to plan for camp
Although budget concerns had threatened operations at numerous state campgrounds across New York last year; the DEC and local communities rallied both the will and the funding to keep the public campgrounds open for the season.
Due to the slump in the national economy, interest is camping has grown and sleeping out in a tent, which is far cheaper than a hotel room, has blossomed in recent years.
According reports from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association Outdoor, camping's popularity jumped 7.4 percent between 2007 and 2008. And overnight backpacking was up by over 18 percent, during the same timeframe.
According to recent reports, there are an estimated 33.7 million campers in the United States, where surveys indicate that one out of every seven citizens, take to the woods on an annual basis. North of the border, researchers indicate that one out of every three Canadians take an annual camping trip.
Although most campgrounds don't open until late May or early June advance reservations for the coming summer season are already pouring in. The long winter may have prompted this early surge, or it could be an indication of the dismal economy.
Last year, at this time, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reported campground reservations were up by 6 percent, and the Department of Environmental Conservation experienced a similar 7 percent increase.
The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 67 campgrounds with more than 8,000 campsites, 800 cabins and 41 vacation rentals. Basic campsite rentals start at $15 per night on weekdays and $19 on weekends.
DEC operates 52 campgrounds located on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks and Catskills. Fees range between $15 and $24 per night.
New York State's campgrounds are administered by ReserveAmerica, which operates the state's camping reservation system, and provides online and phone reservations for campsites throughout New York operated by OPRHP and DEC.
Reservations for campsites and cabins are accepted from one day to nine months in advance of the planned arrival date by calling toll free 1-800-456-CAMP or online at www.nysparks.com.
Campsites and cabins operated by the state serve to accommodate nearly a million campers every year, a figure that is further compounded when considering the number of primitive campsites on state land. Information on DEC campgrounds, including reservations, is available at www.dec-campgrounds.com.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.