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  • Chelsea Susan Bednar

Safety Tips for Cross Country Ski Trips

Snowy trails await your next ski-getaway! While there’s much fun to be had on the trails, there are a few safety precautions to be aware of before you head out for the day. Dress warmly, gear up, and know all the proper ski etiquette. Below we’ve summed up some of the basic rules you’ll need to know from the official Trail Safety Homepage.



Plan Your Trip!


Don’t let the snow prevent you from adventuring into the great outdoors. It’s common for trails to be easier to traverse in the winter due to hazards like rocks, mud, and roots being covered up by the snow. Inaccessible areas during the summertime can be explored, as small lakes and swampy areas becoming solid surfaces to trek on due to ice and layers of snow.


Educate yourself about the areas, look up hiking trails and routes beforehand. Know what time the sun rises and sets so you can travel accordingly. Save the DEC Dispatch phone numbers to your cell, but remember that cell service is not available in all areas. Program cell phones with the DEC Dispatch phone numbers, but do not rely on cell service in all areas. Statewide: (518) 408-5850 Adirondacks: (518) 891-0235


Find a list of hikes in specific regions here and download the app All Trails to find routes on the go.

Play it Safe


Simple, stay on the trails! These paths are maintained and were designed with hikers/cross country skiers’ safety in mind. Ski with a buddy, especially on long trails! Bundle up warmly, wear the proper gear! Hypothermia is real and can be serious in temperatures below 15°F. Move out of the way and off the trail after a fall, preventing any father accidents from occurring. Fill in the sitzmarks before moving on.


Call out “track” when wanting to pass by a slower skier on a flat surface, who in turn steps out of the way to the right. Try NOT to pass downhill! The downhill skier has the right of way. Be sure to check the path is clear before descending the hill! Pay attention to ‘one way’ pathways - ski in the correct direction! If a two set track is unlabelled, ski to the right-hand side. Do NOT walk in tracks, walk to the side if necessary.

Respect the Trails


Fill in holes! Holes can be a serious hazard to others, especially once frozen. If you pass by fresh holes, be sure to fill them in before passing by. Dogs are not allowed on the trails, as they can be hazardous to others and in the way of other skiers, and in danger of getting hurt themselves!

Avalanche Safety


While relatively uncommon, avalanches do exist in upstate New York and can occur anywhere where snow slope and weather conditions come together in a specific way. Otherwise known as a “snow slide”, an avalanche is a mass of snow sliding down the mountainside caused from stress from gravity. There are four conditions combine in the right way. in which an avalanche can occur: a steep slope, a snow cover, a weak later in the snow cover, and a trigger. The months most prone avalanches are February, March , and January. Avalanches occur most commonly on slopes of 25-50 degrees, above the timberline that face away from prevailing winds. Most avalanches occur in backcountry routes, away from developed ski areas.


Basic awareness includes traveling in pairs, letting someone know where you’re going, and not being afraid to turn around. Travel on designated trails or practice safe route finding. Slightly more advanced knowledge for safety preparation includes knowing basic avalanche rescue techniques, checking the snow depth and how much new snow has fallen, along with checking the degree of the slope and the terrain.


NEVER walk out onto cornices without checking first - this is the most common attribute to accidents. If it looks dangerous, find a safer route (including turning around). If necessary, go underground and wait out the avalanche! Dig a quick snow cave or find shelter in a natural crevice.

Download the Avalanche Safety PDF to keep handy on your phone and more on the website here.

Read more about winter hiking safety here and about avalanche safety here.


Thank you for reading,


The Mountain Brook Team



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