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By Kiara Bullard
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Wintertime weather sets a beautiful scene at the summit but, in order to reach the top, one must properly prepare to face the elements offered by the snow-filled trails.
Winter hiking is an enjoyable pastime for outdoor enthusiasts in the state of New York. The well-known high peaks of the Adirondacks are a common place for hikers to partake in the activity.
The snow-covered scenery is visually appealing but can prove difficult physically. Despite the difficulty this does not stop people from taking on the challenge.
“Winter hikes can be pretty exhausting but the view is always amazing at the top,” Liz Delorenzo, an Adirondack region hiker, stated.
Preparation is the key to a fantastic, safe hiking trip. In order to reach the top, one must be properly prepared for the conditions ahead. Hikers prepare in multiple ways.
GEAR TO WEAR & BRING
Typical base temperatures when hiking in the winter can be in the teens. As one begins to ascend along the trails this temperature steadily falls. Hikers desire to keep as much heat to themselves as possible.
Base layers and heavy coats help hikers to brave the cold climate.
Layers are also greatly important as one starts to go up the mountain. The uphill climb causes one's body heat to rise due to the engaging physical activity. One wants to wear layers so that if needed it is easy to delayer as one begins to sweat from the constant movement.
Snow pants are also recommended but not always necessary.
Thermal-insulated shoes or boots are best for hiking in the winter months. One can also get gaiters to cover their lower legs and ankles to keep snow from entering through the top of one's shoes.
Snowshoes may also be needed for some hikes. If the snow on the trail is thick it may be good to bring snowshoes, just in case.
Thick socks to wear in shoes are also important to keep one's feet and toes from going numb while on the trails.
√ Face & Head Covering
Face coverings called balaclava are highly recommended not only for protection from the freezing temperatures but with less tree coverage windchill can become an issue without one.
From experience, Alex Bonacio, an avid hiker in the Northeast cites ski goggles as another necessity for those going on expeditions in the cold climate.
“You would want goggles if you're going below negative with the windchill because your eyes may freeze shut which wouldn't be good at all,” he recalled his own experiences.
Anthony Bonacio, brother of Alex, can also attest to the importance of goggles.
“I’ve experienced temperatures below zero and my eyelashes had icicles on them,” Anthony stated.
While balaclavas cover all but the eyes, it may still be in one's best interest to bring a hat as added protection from the cold. The combination of a balaclava, ski goggles and a warm winter hat protects one from the wind whipping through the bare trees.
Alex Bonacio at the summit of a High Peak.
√ Gloves or Mittens
Hikers also need some sort of protection for their hands but this decision can be affected by a couple of factors.
Temperature and conditions may affect the decision between gloves or mittens. In colder temperatures one may prefer mittens. Mittens optimize warmth by having all fingers grouped together.
Wet conditions, however, may make one opt for gloves with waterproof properties. This ensures that one's hands stay dry while also maintaining maneuverability of the fingers.
Personal preference can be a factor as well. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages so one may make decisions based on how they feel most comfortable or what factors they give the most value to.
√ Water & Food
When going out on the trails it is still important to stay hydrated. Bringing a large bottle of water is the way to do so.
It is also important to have snacks to consume while on the trail. Snacks like a small sandwich, granola bars or dried fruit and nut mix are great to have on the trail.
“On long hikes you should always have snacks because depending on the trail it can be pretty tough and tire you out. You have to keep your energy up so that you can actually complete the trail,” Delorenzo said.
When going on a hike at any time one should have a backpack. The backpack will make it easier to carry all other necessary items that one may need while on the hike.
STAYING UPDATED ON CONDITIONS
When going on a winter hike it is crucial to understand the weather conditions that one may encounter on the trail. There are a few ways for one to do so.
√ Social Media
Some hikers use social media to get in touch with others who may plan to go on the trails for advice and updates on conditions.
“There are a few groups on Facebook that I could use if there was a snowstorm coming in or if there's too much snow to hike in,” Alex stated.
Alex relies on Facebook and said it is the best method to get updates if one plans to go on a specific trail.
√ All Trails
All Trails website provides updates on many hiking trails across the state of New York. Information about the elevation, length of trail and weather conditions are among the reasons that hikers reference the site prior to going out on an expedition.
Outdoor enthusiasts in the Adirondacks may also use Adirondack.net. This site provides loads of useful information for hikers to assist in preparations.
Recommendations for necessary gear, weather to expect, sunrise and sunset times are among the tips that the site offers to hikers. In addition to this they also give trail notices and provide hikers with a way to report any emergencies that they encounter on their travels.
All of this can be found in the Hiking section which gives updates on specific dates for safe travel.
With all the effort that goes into preparing some may wonder, is it really worth it?
“It’s absolutely worth it for the view,” Delorenzo stated.
Despite the harsh conditions one must trek through, hikers find the experience quite
“There are less crowds and I think the snow-covered pine trees are beautiful. It’s also a lot quieter,” Anthony stated.
Photo taken from a fire tower at the peak of Mount Adams in the Adirondacks.
Cold weather provides a special challenge for a bigger payoff. Looking down at the bright landscape littered with snow, sun shining through the clouds, and snowflakes falling to the ground. Scenic summits motivate hikers to reach the top so they can enjoy a view like no other.
Snow weighs down branches providing open views that can’t be seen clearly during other seasons.
“I think that makes it 10 times better than if you’re hiking in the summer. You don’t really get the view until you’re right at the summit in the summer,” Alex said.
Those who have gone through the experience find that all of their efforts do not go to waste. The effort put into preparing is worth it for the view in the end.
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