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DEC urges folks to be safe in the back-country

RAY BROOK -Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation have urged outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution this winter as they venture into the backcountry.

Environmental conservation officials said this week that skiers, hikers and snowshoers need to make sure they are adequately prepared before heading into the Adirondack mountains.

DEC spokesman David Winchell said winter conditions can be perilous as snow cover is more than a few feet deep in higher elevations.

Winchell observed that visitors to the eastern High Peaks are required to use snowshoes or cross-country skis for safety, while visitors to other regions of the Adirondacks are encouraged to do the same.

Being ill-prepared, Winchell said, can lead to treacherous situations.

"The biggest problem is people not being properly prepared," he said. "Mainly, they don't carry or wear the proper clothing, don't dress in layers, and aren't drinking water or eating food to keep their energy levels up."

Another common mistake is planning accordingly, Winchell says. Often, visitors to the High Peaks don't leave themselves enough time to complete their trip.

"When you're in the snow, it takes additional time to get to your destination and back," he said. "Then you end up getting caught out in the dark."

Winchell says "post-holing" is a major concern this time of year. Post-holing occurs when hikers break through the surface of snow on a trail. When snow is deep, post-holing can lead to injuries or entrapment, Winchell says.

Skis and snowshoes prevent post-holing, Winchell adds.

"Certainly, having skis or snowshoes significantly decrease the amount of energy it takes to walk through the snow," he said. "That's a big plus."

Winchell notes that many people suffer dehydration not only in the summer, but during the winter months, he said.

Adirondack trail information can be found on the DEC's website, or people can call the Region 5 offices at 897-1200 for outdoor- and weather-related inquiries.

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