Rerouting the Wright Peak Ski Trail

by Mike Lynch

The Wright Peak Ski Trail is one of the top backcountry-skiing trails in the Adirondacks, but skiers often complain that it dumps them out onto a narrow and often-rocky hiking trail that leads to Algonquin Peak.


The state Department of Environmental Conservation proposes to fix the problem by rerouting the bottom of the ski trail so that it terminates at the Whales Tail Ski Trail.


It is one of several skiing proposals in a draft amendment to the High Peaks Wilderness unit management plan (UMP).


Ron Konowitz, founder of the Adirondack Powder Ski Association, said he was ecstatic over the Wright Peak proposal. He hopes the trail will be “once again what it was back in the 1930s.”


Constructed in 1938, the Wright Peak Ski Trail was designed by Otto Schniebs before the advent of lift-operated ski resorts. Schniebs, who coached at Dartmouth College in the 1930s, is credited with co-authoring the first instructional book on skiing. He was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame.


Originally, the ski trail and hiking trail were separate. In the 1970s, DEC closed the old hiking trail, which was eroded, and moved hikers onto the lower part of the ski trail. Since then, this stretch of trail has been maintained for hiking, with rock steps and water bars. The sides have been brushed in to narrow the passage. In contrast, the original trail was fifteen feet wide in places.


Wes Lampman, chief operating officer of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said the hiking trail can be hard to ski, especially when there is not enough snow to cover the rocks. “It’s pretty difficult to get out there early season when you have boulders that are sticking out two to three feet,” said Lampman, who once headed the club’s trail crew.


The new trail would be wider than the typical hiking trail and thus safer for skiing. Separating the ski and hiking trails also would eliminate the risk of collisions between skiers and snowshoers.


The route has not been surveyed, but Lampson noted that the area contains a lot of open woods, minimizing the number of trees that would need to be cut.


The Barkeater Trails Alliance, which maintains ski trails in the Lake Placid region, also supports the Wright Peak proposal. Josh Wilson, the group’s executive director, said DEC may discourage skiers from hiking over Wright Peak to reach the ski trail. The fear is that skiers will damage alpine plant.......Read More

Ski group seeks amendment for backcountry touring trails

November 26, 2014 in Chronicle Perspectives


By Patrick Daley, Chronicle Staff Writer

For the first time since 1987, The Adirondack Park Agency is accepting comments regarding amendments to New York State’s State Land Master Plan (SLMP).

The non-profit Adirondack Powder Skier Association (APSA) is lobbying for an amendment to allow backcountry skiing in the Adirondacks that adheres to New York State Constitution Article 14, known as the “Forever Wild” clause.

The APSA is asking for the public to show support for their proposed amendment through letter and e-mail writing to the APA. The deadline is Dec. 5.

While backcountry skiing is technically permitted in the Adirondacks on existing trails, the APSA says they are too narrow and dangerous to skiers and others, like hikers, who may be around a corner. READ MORE...

Grassroots groups in New York and Vermont establish backcountry ski trails on public lands.


It’s September 2013, and Ron Konowitz hikes through birch and maple trees showing fall colors on 4,961-foot Mount Haystack in New York’s Adirondack Park. He’s explored these mountains for more than 40 years, usually with skis on his feet emblazoned with his identifier: Ron Kon. But today, Konowitz flags and reflags branches, brush and blowdown along a half-mile stretch, carefully avoiding flagging live trees. This section of forest drops about 800 vertical feet at a pitch approaching 30 degrees. With the deadfall gone Konowitz envisions five open lines of quality tree skiing here.


The Haystack zone is a demonstration site for the Adirondack Powder Skier Association, which Konowitz founded with lawyer Dean Schneller. The APSA seeks to establish and maintain ski-specific trails in the Adirondacks and to improve access for skiers at minimal environmental cost. Elsewhere, grassroots backcountry skiing organizations like California’s Snowlands Network, Washington’s Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance, and the Montana Backcountry Alliance have similar agendas. Over Lake Champlain in the Green Mountain State, the Vermont Backcountry Alliance is building a network of backcountry skiers and environmental groups to manage new ski terrain and preserve existing ones. READ MORE.....


Powder to the people

By Dean C. Schneller

I AM A LAWYER BY TRADE, but when my tie is undone, the real work begins at my rustic cabin. There is wood to chop; hens to water; raised beds to weed; and a dozen daily tasks necessary to keep my growing family warm and



During long summer days, between the daily chores, we have many options for fun: hiking, kayaking,

mountain biking, or fly-fishing. But during winter the list of chores is as short as the days. When it snows I’m too excited to sit by the fire. The  snow-covered peaks are calling, reminding me why I made this park home: glorious powder turns in the Adirondack backcountry.


Earning one’s turns is simple in theory: climb a mountain, then ski down. To me, backcountry skiing epitomizes the Adirondack spirit. This sport requires a deep respect for nature, strong  muscles, self-reliance, and, of course, an appetite for excitement. For centuries, hunters, trappers, and conservationists used skis to access the Adirondack backcountry, and many “trails” in the old days were ski trails. Unfortunately, this historic birthright was lost, and now, due to

regulatory shortcomings, there are minimal safe opportunities for this type of skiing in the Park.


In early 2012, I met with several local backcountry skiers to discuss the status of our sport in the Park. Out of this meeting was born the Adirondack Powder Skier Association (APSA), a not-for-profit group dedicated to studying, protecting, promoting, and enhancing low-impact human- powered snow sports on the Park’s public lands. Our aim is to work with state agencies, environmental groups, and municipalities to develop responsible guidelines for maintaining backcountry ski routes, access to slides, and other backcountry-skiing resources. If we succeed, the Adirondacks will welcome backcountry skiers, to the benefit of the local economy and powder hounds......Click Here to Read More (PDF Download)

Commentary: Backcountry Skiers Seek SLMP Amendments



Commentary: Backcountry Skiers Seek SLMP Amendments

by Jeff Farbanie

John Apperson SkiingThe Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is soliciting comments regarding their plan to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), the document which governs management of the state-owned “forever wild” lands of the Adirondack Park. It’s the first time the SLMP has been substantially amended in more than 25 years, and represents a critical opportunity for advocates of backcountry skiing.


Among the changes that are being considered is a proposal from the Adirondack Powder Skier Association (APSA) to explicitly allow for the creation and maintenance of designated backcountry ski touring trails on Forest Preserve lands classified as Wild Forest and Wilderness.


APSA formed in 2012 to urge the state to allow them to maintain off-trail areas for backcountry skiing in the Adirondacks, but soon ran into issues with interpretation of the State Land Master Plan. Even though the SLMP allows for recreational amenities like hiking trails, horse trails, snowmobile trails and ski trails, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has maintained that the minimal maintenance sought by APSA – the clearing of blowdown, branches and brush for backcountry skiing – is a “prohibited activity.” READ MORE........


Mountain Journal- Environment, news, culture from the Australian Southern Alps

A New Take on Backcountry Skiing: managing forests to create runs

JANUARY 5, 2014


The mountains of the eastern seaboard of the USA have some similarities with those in south eastern Australia. They are mostly forested, with only limited terrain above tree line, meaning that much of the steep snow country is not easily or safely ridden. Alpine resorts get around this by cutting runs, with sometimes very significant environmental impacts. Mt Buller would stand out as the worst case in Australia.....READ MORE


Adirondack amendment hunting for Gladed glory in the largest state park in the continental United States

by Mike Rogge published: JUNE 26, 2013


“It’s not illegal to ski here,” says Ron Konowitz over the phone. Konowitz, a retired school teacher from Keene Valley, New York, would know. He’s been skiing in the Empire State’s Adirondack Park since the ’70s.


Konowitz, 59, is the president of the newly formed Adirondack Powder Skier Association. Aside from an awesome name, its aim is to make backcountry skiing in the park more accessible. Despite a multitude of slide paths formed each year, skiers have few options when it comes to safely exploring the six million acre park. The APSA’s hope is to amend a 1973 piece of legislature adopted by former Governor of New York Nelson Rockefeller so that they can create a series of skier-specific trails.


With the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, the state hoped to channel future growth in the park around existing communities, ensuring the more wild areas of the park would remain, in the state’s words, “forever wild.” Hundreds upon hundreds of interlinking hiking trails spread like roots through the High Peaks and surrounding areas, creating one of the largest recreational areas in the United States. Konowitz and Co. hope to create maintained, less-invasive gladed trails in order to promote backcountry skiing in a region dependent on tourism......READ MORE


Go Vermont powder skiers!
Check out this article in Seven Days

Into the Wilds: Backcountry Skiers Push for State Help in Carving New Glades

Outside of the Adirondacks....