Slide Skiing: The Cooper Kiln Slide
Witnessing the power and the beauty of mother nature by skiing, or simply standing next to a landslide path in the Adirondacks is an interesting and wonderful experience. Landslide paths can be explored in any season, but I particularly enjoy exploring them in the winter with skis on my feet. It should be noted that these landslide paths are prone to avalanches, and proper precautions should be taken. Having the right knowledge, training, and equipment can mean the difference between a great day in the woods and an unfortunate tragedy.
In the late summer of 2011 Hurricane Irene ripped through the Whiteface Region. The tremendous amount of water that fell over a short period of time caused the rivers to rage at higher flows than ever seen before, and the moisture in the mountains caused massive landslides that changed the landscape forever. While the Cooper Kiln Slide just on the edge of the Town Of Wilmington existed before Hurricane Irene, a significant landslide here during the storm made this slide much more prominent.
Quite often Adirondack slides are more closely associated with the patrolled ski runs at Whiteface Mountain or are mistakenly believed to be only found in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The truth is that these natural slide paths occur all over the Adirondack Park. While on the particular day of my visit to the slide it was not skiable, there are times during periods of excellent snow cover when this particular when the Cooper Kiln Slide can be skied. Striding up the Cooper Kiln Trail to have a look at the slide and appreciate the force that it took to create such a wide swath in the landscape was worth the trip itself. Not to mention the ski back down to the car on the Cooper Kiln snowmobile trail is quite enjoyable.
Ideal equipment for slide skiing is heavy duty alpine touring or telemark gear, especially if you plan to make a descent down this, or any other slide path. As I mentioned before, for this type of fun you'll want to be familiar with acceptable practices for safe travel in Avalanche terrain, as well as have an avalanche beacon. At least one partner who is also familiar with safe practices for travel in avalanche terrain is absolutely necessary. Skiers who are simply interested in admiring the power of a slide from the bottom or the side, metal edged cross country skis will suffice for a tour up to the Cooper Kiln Slide.
There are lots of opportunities for education about travel in this type of terrain throughout the winter season. The most popular of which is the Mountaineer's annual Backcountry Ski Festival. This is a great opportunity to learn about safety techniques, try equipment, and talk to some of the best in the business.