Photo by Mike Lynch
Skiers and climbers take an avalanche education course at Adirondack Rock and River guide service in Keene during Mountainfest in January.
 
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Avalanches are considered rare occurrences in the Adirondack backcountry. I\'ve heard more lament and concern about icy conditions than the potential for snow to slide down a mountainside.

Still, avalanches do occur here and it\'s worth learning as much as possible about them if you venture out into avalanche terrain.

In a December 12 posting on the Adirondack Backcountry Skiing website (www.adkbcski.com), hosted by Drew Haas, Albany area resident Richard Tucker wrote an extensive essay on the subject. He documented 24 avalanches since 1929. There\'s obviously many more that have taken place, but weren\'t documented.

Considering how many ski days there are every year and how many avalanches have taken place, the risk factor is pretty low. But within that small risk factor is the fact that if you\'re caught in one, you could lose your life or at least be seriously injured.

That\'s reason enough to not overlook the issue of avalanches.

This winter, after a year when many new slides were created during Tropical Storm Irene, it seems like the probability of an avalanche taking place has increased. More slides means there is more unknown terrain and more places to attract skiers. The excitement factor has also risen as more people may be interested in hitting these slopes.

The desire to hit the slides isn\'t a bad thing, but those who head up there should educate themselves on avalanche safety prior to heading out. There are a number of ways to do this.

A good way to start is to read some of the material available. One good book is \