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Adirondack Winter 2.0
A New Perspective
Winters in the Adirondacks have been getting warmer, and shorter, for at least several decades. Twenty years ago bare ground was rarely seen between Thanksgiving and mid-March, nowadays it is commonplace. Average winter temperatures have risen steadily over the years and much of what would have been snow in the past, arrives now as rain.

This warming trend started to significantly impact backcountry skiing in the mid 1990's. Reliable snow cover throughout the season gave way to frequent warm spells that reduced the snowpack and produced ice-crusted conditions, or eliminated the snow altogether. Ski areas, with their man-made snow, could survive these dry spells but the backcountry could not. On the flip side, we enjoyed some colossal storms that produced spectacular, but short-lived, skiing. Skiers nowadays are forced to lie in wait for the next big storm, and then pounce on it like a predator. Our last big storm was in 2005 so the ski diet has been rather lean – Jenny Craig eat your heart out.

Ironically, as backcountry skiing was being compromised by the warming winters, ice climbing benefited. In general, more freeze-thaw cycles make for better ice formation and we have had a lot of great ice climbing in recent years. However, without the freezing part of the cycle, thawing only works against ice formation and that is what we have seen more frequently over the past several seasons. So far this year, freezing has been, for the most part, just a memory and an expectation. The cold, almost certainly, will arrive. We may even experience a frigid spell and great ice climbing, but on balance, things are warming and that is not helping the ice.

Enough ice, but not fat

Mixed climbing by necessity

Positive Thinking:
No other attitude will do

Warming Trends & Political Will
To put things into perspective it is important to realize that the ten hottest years on record have occured since 1992. Last year was the hottest year ever recorded and this winter has been substantially warmer than last. The trend is clear and there is strong evidence to suggest it will continue at an increasing rate unless many things change. While we are lamenting the disappearance of our winter recreation opportunities, and the economic impact to the recreation industry, it might be a good idea to consider the fact that this trend, if unabated, will go beyond messing up fun and economics. Melting glaciers and ice caps, increasingly violent storms, and rapidly changing climate patterns world-wide are clear indicators of a trend that will eventually, and inevitably, threaten our very ability to survive. By comparison, leading thin ice seems quite safe.

Although this may seem an odd place for musings on global warming, it is not. We are the “winter people”, the ones who see its impact first, and miss what it replaces most. We are the ones who see it not just as some scientific observation disembodied from our world, but as an alarming trend that is having a clear and detrimental effect on things we enjoy. That we see it at all is significant. Much of the world is in denial about this warming trend, arguing that it isn’t there, that it is natural, or that none of this matters because there is nothing anyone can do. Neither denial nor despair are the least bit helpful. Global warming is a challenge unlike anything humanity has ever dealt with before but it IS happening and we CAN do something about it. Alone, there's not much you can do, so find group of like-minded thinkers and add your support.

Of course you could just sell your ice tools and take up golf....

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~ Mountain Adventures In the Adirondacks Since 1985 ~

Alpine Adventures, Inc.
10873 NYS Route 9N, P.O. Box 179
Keene, New York 12942 USA

(518) 576-9881

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