Leave No Trace Ethics for Backcountry Snow Sports

Winter recreation in backcountry is on the rise. Advances in backcountry skiing and snowboarding equipment, improved access and the relentless search for fresh snow, solitude and adventure have driven more people into the backcountry in recent years. As is so often the case, increased use can lead to greater impacts to the landscape as well as others seeking the same qualities in the outdoors. Trash, human waste issues, excessive noise and disturbances to the winter cycles of wildlife have all been cited as issues that can be addressed successfully with relevant Leave No Trace education.

The snow sports community plans to help minimize impacts by promoting a new set of backcountry-focused ethics. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (the Center) teamed up with Winter Wildlands Alliance to develop a set of winter backcountry ethics aimed at ensuring long-term protection of shared winter backcountry resources. Through this collaboration, both the Center and Winter Wildlands Alliance are able to promote relevant and area-specific Leave No Trace information to help skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and others to enjoy the backcountry responsibly and safely.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Practice Safety First. Be prepared; plan your trip and be self-­‐reliant. Have extra warm layers, carry first aid, emergency gear, headlamp, whistle, watch, and a lighter or matches. Check the weather and snow conditions, and set and stick to a turn-­‐ around time. Know your equipment and its limits, have extra food and water, get training in wilderness first aid and avalanche safety. Never fully depend on any electronic device, especially a cell phone, personal locator beacon or GPS. Carry extra batteries or other means to recharge critical electronic devices. Plan for changes in weather, and have the gear to survive a night in the mountains.
  • Know where you are going. Have a map, compass, and GPS and know how to use them; mark a waypoint at the trailhead or backcountry access point. Study area maps in advance of your adventure; consider going with someone with experience in the area. Allow plenty of time for your adventure. Know emergency exit routes, and be sure to tell someone where you are going, when you plan to return, and stay with that plan.
  • Know your own and your group’s limits, and minimize risks. Always default to the least skilled member’s ability for maximum safety. Groups of three or more are encouraged but do not exceed group size limits for the area. Don’t push yourself or others to take risks. Stay within your fitness and skill level. Stay together and use the buddy system. Check your watch and map regularly to keep track of your progress and location.

 Travel on Durable Surfaces

  • Stay on deep snow cover whenever possible. Respect springtime trail closures. Stay on snow, rock, or walk in the middle of the trail if conditions are muddy or icy to avoid creating new trails and damaging trailside plants. Consider additional traction and/or flotation as necessary for trail conditions. Travel away from avalanche paths, cornices, steep slopes, and unstable snow.

 Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack It In, Pack It Out. Pack out everything you bring with you. Burying trash and litter in the snow or ground is unacceptable. Pick up all food scraps, wax shavings, and pieces of litter. Pack out all trash: yours and others’. Bury human waste deep in snow at least 50’ away from travel routes and at least 200 feet (70 adult steps) from water sources or pack it out with you.

Leave What You Find

  • Leave only tracks. Leave all plants, rocks, animals, and historical or cultural artifacts as you find them. Take only pictures. Avoid introducing or transporting non-­‐native or invasive species.

Minimize Campfire and Hut Impacts

  • Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a lantern or headlamp for light. Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings. Keep fires small. Burn only downed wood that is smaller than your wrist. Never cut live plants. Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, and leave a clean fire site.
  • Leave huts and cabins in better shape than how you found them. It is always best to cook outside whenever possible. Use extra care when cooking or heating inside huts. Be considerate of other users and observe any rules or instructions related to the shelter. Clean up before leaving. Don’t leave food or other trash behind – it only encourages the mice!

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach wildlife. Winter is an especially vulnerable time for animals.
  • Never feed wildlife or leave food behind to be eaten. Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • If you choose to bring your dog keep it under control and do not let it harass wildlife. Consider leaving pets at home.

Be Considerate of Others

  • Respect landowners, both public and private. Ask permission before entering private land and stay clear of homes, buildings, and equipment. Respect all land postings. Leave access gates as they are found.
  • Respect other skiers/riders and all other users. Keep noise to a minimum when near others, and let nature’s sounds prevail. Promote friendly cooperative attitudes, share safety information, and help others if needed. Please keep your journey’s end celebration activities respectful. In popular areas, “spoon” downhill tracks to conserve opportunities for others to enjoy fresh snow.
  • When ascending trails, keep clear and yield to downhill traffic. When descending always stay in control, go one at a time, and slow down near others. Avoid booting and snowshoeing in skin or ski tracks. Ski and ride conservatively to avoid accidents.
  • Respect designated areas, signs, and wildlife. Obey local guidelines, follow ski area boundary rules, and stay out of sensitive natural areas. Park in designated areas; do not block gates, roads or driveways, and car pool if possible. Respect other activities.

The newly developed guidelines can be accessed here.


The Forty Fourth Annual 46er Outdoor Skills Workshop

ATTENTION: Camp Counselors, Y-Leaders, Scout Leaders, 4-H Leaders, Recreation Personnel, Teachers, and Others interested in leading or participating in wilderness trips.

WHAT: An intensive weekend workshop designed to train individuals involved in leading groups on wilderness camping trips.

WHO ATTENDS: The program is designed for leaders of all ages and physical condition. Our intent is for participants to learn by observation and doing within each individual’s capabilities.

TOPICS COVERED: Pre-trip planning and safety; food planning and packaging; campsite organization and safety; meal preparation and safe use of stoves; map and compass; group leadership; wilderness emergencies and how to respond to them; appreciation of the Adirondack environment; geologic history of the region; evaluation of proper clothing and equipment; cooking/baking in the out-of-doors; leave no trace; camp leadership training; establishing a campsite; nature, folklore and history of the Adirondacks.

WHEN: May 1, 2 & 3, 2015


SPONSORED BY: The Adirondack Forty-Sixers. We are a non-profit organization of those who have climbed the 46 major peaks of the Adirondacks. We provide this as a public service to all who are interested in utilizing the Adirondacks properly.

COST: For $30 we provide campsite, food, and experienced instructors. Each participant will receive a free t-shirt upon graduation.

NOTE: A $30 registration fee is assessed, but $10 is refunded upon completion of the workshop.

For more information and application forms. WRITE: Adirondack Forty-Sixers c/o Don McMullen, Co-Chairman P.O. Box 126,Lake Placid, NY 12946 (518) 523-2754


Download from: http://adk46er.org

Selection begins March 15th/ends April 25th, 2015. Early registration encouraged, limited spaces fill fast!!


Black Diamond Equipment Transfer 7 Shovel

A snow shovel is a useful tool for winter camping in the backcountry.  It can be used for a variety of tasks:

  • Making snow shelters.  A shovel can be indispensable for making a quick emergency shelter or building a quinzee, snow cave or igloo.
  • Clearing a tent site.  A commonplace use of snow shovel is clearing a level space for your tent when snow camping .  You can carve out a windscreen or dig a kitchen area.
  • Drinking water.  A  shovel comes in handy for digging fresh snow to melt for drinking water.
  • Avalanche rescue.  If you travel or camping in avalanche areas you should carry a shovel for self-rescue.
  • Shoveling out your car.  Last but not least, when you return to your car after a winter camping trip a shovel is useful for ensuring you can get your car back on the highway.

Snow shovels are made of aluminum or Lexan® polycarbonate. Lexan is favored for lighter weight, while aluminum is used for strength and durability.

Small shovel blades are easier to handle but less efficient at chopping and moving snow while larger blades can move more snow but may weigh more, take more space and require more strength to operate. The shovel blade should fit easily in your backpack or pulk.  Some shovel blades are flat others have serrated or pointed blades that help cut through snow and ice.When digging snow pits and making smooth walls the angle of the shovel blade is a factor to consider as a flat blade will help you create a smoother pit wall.

Most backcountry shovels have telescoping or segmented shafts that can be made compact for carrying on your pack. They fit together with spring-loaded buttons that pop into holes in the connecting sections. Longer handles provide more leverage for digging.

Handles come as either a T-grip or D-grip. The T-grip, which is gripped between the fingers, is lightweight but can be awkward if you’re wearing mittens. The D-grip is usually bulkier and slightly heavier, but it is easier to use with mittens.

I have used a small, light  Lexan shovel for the past few years.  For a change I sought a larger aluminum shovel from Appalachian Ski & Outdoors (AppOutdoors.com).  My choice was a Black Diamond Equipment Transfer 7 Shovel.

Characteristics of The Black Diamond Equipment Transfer 7 Shovel

The Black Diamond Transfer 7 Shovel has a trapezoidal shaft to increase strength.  By moving away from the traditional round shaft, Black Diamond created a handle that extends with a simple pull and cannot be rotated on accident.



Blade Material

6000 series aluminum

Blade Size

15.75 x 10.3 inches

Blade Volume

2.65 L or .7 gallon

Length: Packed

16.3 inches

Length: Deployed

33.9 inches


770g or 1 lb 11oz

Features include:

  • The shaft extends in length from 16.3 inches to 33.9 inches.  This  long rigid shaft is one of the longer shovels available.  As a tall person I appreciate the longer reach.
  • The trapezoidal bent shaft deploys quickly via a quick squeeze of spring pins.  The shaft shape prevents rotation so the spring pins engage every time.  You never waste previous time adjusting the shaft trying to  get spring-pin holes to align and lock.
  • The hybrid  T-grip handle feels like a D-grip and is  mitten-friendly.  The triangular handle doesn’t flex  and stays rigid even under heavy wet snow.
  • It has a  large, flat, smooth, steep-walled, anodized 6000-series aluminum 10.3″ x 15.75″ blade. The slightly pointed blade enables effective chopping and the flat sides smooth snow walls.
  • The anchor holes through blade can be used as a dead man anchors.

Criticisms include:

  • Any extendible shaft can get snow/water inside. When this moisture freezes the small metal spring-loaded connectors sometimes freeze up and have to be cleaned out. This is true of this shovel as well.

Summary: There are shorter, lighter shovels on the market but if you are tall and want to reduce the amount you have to bend over; if you want a shovel that is simple, easy and fast to deploy; if you want a shovel that moves volumes of snow then buy this shovel.  You can find it online with prices ranging from $29 – $49.

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Stumbin’ Thru

A. Digger Stolz has written a very funny and accurate to life on the Appalachian Trail.  The hiking characters that crisscross his path early on may or may not turn out to be major players, but they have real depth and I became curious what becomes of them.   Of course, everyone has a nickname on the trail.  The book is driven by the characters as the plot is simple and pre-ordained.

Book 1 – Stumblin’ Thru Hike Your Own Hike

Welcome to the world of the Appalachian Trail. Every year, thousands of pilgrims arrive at Georgia’s Springer Mountain and set off with hopes of reaching Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Roughly ten percent ever complete the journey. It’s more than likely that in the AT’s long, storied history, Walter is the first person to thru-hike against his will. He is out-of-shape, out-of-sorts and, now that his wife has decided enough is enough, he’s out of the house too. It’s that classic scenario: Hike or ELSE! Since the poor, morose Walter can’t figure an ‘ELSE’ he sets off on the longest walk of his life.   While braving the great Eastern woods, Walter meets an eclectic cast of hopeful thru-hikers. As they journey northward, this rollicking band suffers through every hardship that America’s premiere hiking trail can throw at them. It isn’t long before Walter is looking at life through new eyes and just maybe for the first time in forever, starting to feel better about the world and his place in it. But no way is that alone going to be enough to get him to Maine.

Book 2 – Stumbin’ Thru – Keepin’ on Keepin’ On

After his big epiphany in Damascus, Bartleby resumes inching his way northward along the Appalachian Trail with a newfound determination. Despite struggling beneath the unresolved weight of his previous life and a too-heavy backpack, he still somehow manages to keep moving forward—step after step, mile after mile. Joining Bartleby on this journey is an ever-changing crew of oddballs and outsiders, the wandering men and women of the Appalachian Trail. With white blazes marking the way and little adventures around every corner, Bartleby & Company push through the Mid-Atlantic States and climb into the mountainous wilds of New England. Here concludes the story of a middle-aged man thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail against his will, against his better judgment and against all odds.

A work of fiction, but a great winter time read.

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Frostbite occurs when an individual’s skin or those tissues beneath his skin freeze. Frostbite most often develops in the face, ears, nose, feet, and hands of someone who is exposed to the cold for a length of time or even severe cold for just a few minutes. Frostbite causes the fluids that exist in the body’s tissue to freeze up and crystallize. This can damage the blood vessels in the area and deprive the area of oxygen. Children and the elderly are more vulnerable to the effects of frostbite than other populations. There are steps that can be taken to prevent frostbite from occurring.


It is essential to be properly dressed if you are going to be exposed to the cold for long stretches or very cold temperatures for shorter ones. This means dressing in layers of clothing that can protect you against the elements, insulate your body against the cold and yet still allow any perspiration to evaporate away from your body.

Synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene are recommended for those layers closest to the body as they will not absorb your perspiration but rather let it evaporate. Wool and polyester layers should then follow.

It’s better to wear loose-fitting clothing as that can allow for superior ventilation. Water repellent outer layers can keep you much drier than garments that are heavier and may seem warmer but that will absorb water if exposed to rain or snow.


All of your extremities must be protected against the cold and potential frostbite. The neck and the head can be protected against this by wearing hoods, hats, earmuffs, scarves and even face masks.

The hands are particularly at risk from frostbite. While gloves with individual fingers may permit you to do more things with your hands mittens are better since they are warmer. Ideally, you should wear a pair of light gloves under your mittens in case you do need to take the mittens off.

The feet, especially the toes, are also in grave danger of frostbite under the right conditions. Wearing two pairs of woolen socks and insulated boots that go up to at least your ankles is important. The boots should not be tight since this may decrease blood flow and give frostbite an opportunity to set in.

Other tips

Know the signs of frostbite so you can be aware if you or a friend are beginning to exhibit them. A mild case of frostbite will first affect the skin’s outermost layers. It will make the skin look whitish and the region will feel as if needles are being stuck into it. The area may swell, burn or itch and if it is warmed up it will become extremely painful.

Frostbite that is more serious will make the skin take on a waxy appearance and it can be white, gray-blue or gray-yellow. The region that is frostbitten will feel numb and the tissue when it is touched will feel frozen and hard. More acute instances will precipitate blisters that are filled with fluid that can be either milky colored or clear. The worst cases of the condition will turn the skin black from gangrene.

It is prudent to avoid nicotine and alcohol when facing prolonged exposure to the cold as these can slow down blood flow, making frostbite more easily possible. It is advisable to consume sports drinks or sugar water that has been warmed up and snacks that are high in calorie content while out in the cold.

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Murphy’s Law Applied to Winter Camping

  • The need to urinate at night increases in direct relation to the hour past midnight, layers of clothing worn, occupants in your tent, and inches of new snowfall. Curiously, it increases in ‘inverse’ relation to the decreasing outside temperature.
  • Sticks emerge through the snow at a rate proportional with the time.
  • The weight of your backpack increases in direct relationship with the length of your hike and the depth of the snow.
  • Your warmest item of clothing will be the one that is torn, wet or forgotten.
  • Tent stakes come only in the quantity ‘N-1′ where N is the number of stakes necessary to stake down a tent.  The quantity of N-1 tent stakes will all be of length L-1″ where L is the length needed to reach solid snowpack.
  • All food assumes a common taste and color when freeze-dried.
  • Divide the number of servings by two when reading the directions for reconstituting anything freeze-dried.
  • The person hiking in front of you will randomly dislodge snow from  all tree branches above your head. If you remain a safe distance behind the person in front of you, then the person behind you will randomly tap those same branches with their trekking pole, dislodging the snow before they reach the branch.
  • The actual comfortable sleep rating for your sleeping bag is 15 degrees more than what was advertised.
  • When sharing gear with a group three will bring  stoves and no one will bring a cooking kit.
  • Your backpack’s weight will not be affected by the amount of food eaten out of it.
  • The loudness of your tent mate’s snoring during night grows in direct correlation to your need for sleep.
  • The sun sets 47% faster than normal when setting up camp. It sets another 28% faster if freezing rain is eminent.
  • Of a 25% chance of freezing rain, 100% will fall in your campsite.
  • When snowshoeing you take half as many downhill steps as uphill.
  • 30% of a backpack’s contents could have been left at home.
  • The number of times the trip is described in a story is directly proportional to the misery experienced during the trip.

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