Off Piste in the Adirondacks

Brian Mohr
Posted November 1st, 2009

After a scenic eight-mile approach that started before sunrise, Emily Johnson skis sun-ripened corn snow, while descending a remote slide on one of Mount Marcy’s neighboring peaks. Photo by Brian Mohr,
Skiing in the High Peaks of New York’s Adirondack Mountains should be on every northeast skier’s to-do list. From the snow-filled gulleys and slide paths of the region’s highest peaks to the gentler backcountry trails of the valleys below, the Dacks are an adventure skier’s paradise.
More remote, steeper, and generally more difficult to navigate than New England mountains, the Dacks are also the only mountains in the eastern US that are not part of the ancient Appalachians. Rather, the Adirondacks have been carved from an uplifting dome in a layer of bedrock known as the Canadian Shield, and they are still rising today at a rate of about one to three millimeters a year. Although that doesn’t sound like much, it’s enough to make the region prone to earthquakes and regular landslides.
In recent years, the slide paths, or “slides,” carved by these landslides have become increasingly popular objectives for skiers with the motivation, skills, and experience to tackle them successfully. While some slides are relatively easy to access and descend, others can involve hours of rugged off-trail travel, be riddled with ice floes, and be prone to dangerous avalanches, one of which claimed the life of a skier in February 2000.
Beyond the slides, the mountain wilderness of the High Peaks region of the Adirondack State Park boasts a tremendous variety of backcountry ski trails, down-mountain ski runs, gladed tree skiing, and high elevation alpine descents. However, don’t expect to find much of this mapped out for you in a guidebook. To make the most of skiing in the Dacks, head out in the spirit of the earliest Adirondack skiers, who were among the first in North America to climb mountains with the intention of skiing from their summits.
Go with plenty of time, a strong desire to explore, some tolerance for bushwhacking (and a good headlamp), and be prepared for a skiing adventure you will never forget.
Brian Mohr is an outdoor adventurer, writer, and photographer in Moretown, VT. He can be reached through his web site,
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ADK’s Guide to Adirondack Trails, High Peak Region. Published by Adirondack Mountain Club, 2004.

Brian Mohr

Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson of Moretown own Ember Photography and publish They can be reached through their website,