Public safety officials urge caution in spring hiking conditions

VERMONT — As the weather improves this spring, Vermont State Police and Department of Public Safety are reminding those heading onto Vermont’s hiking trails of the ever changing weather conditions a hiker may encounter this time of year, especially at higher elevations.
As hikers follow trails into the mountains they can find snow and ice despite warm weather and green grass at the trailhead. Spring showers at lower elevations can turn into an all-too-familiar wintry mix of snow, sleet and rain in the hills. The long-lasting snowpack at higher elevation keeps the air temperatures cool, soaks hikers’ boots, and can make the trails difficult to follow.
If hiking at higher elevations, it’s important that spring hikers continue to be prepared for winter conditions. Waterproof boots (not sneakers) with traction devices, extra layers of warm clothes, a headlamp, map and compass may become necessary for a safe and successful hike. Consider turning around when you hit icy or snow-covered trails if you are not properly equipped or if travel and route finding becomes more difficult.
Neil Van Dyke, search and rescue coordinator for the Department of Public Safety, reports that there were several search and rescue incidents last spring involving hikers who were not properly prepared for the conditions they found at higher elevations.
An April 26 rescue on Mt. Mansfield highlighted these concerns when two hikers called 911 when they were unable to follow the Long Trail due to deep snow and found themselves in unfamiliar terrain. They were also ill-equipped for the conditions wearing only summer hiking attire, becoming very cold and wet as darkness approached.
Fortunately rescuers from Stowe Mountain Rescue and the Public Safety were able to determine their location and guide them to the top of the ski area at Stowe Mountain Resort, where they were picked up at about 9 p.m., transported down the mountain and taken back to their car in Underhill.
These situations can be avoided by having appropriate winter hiking gear, or simply turning around when snowy, icy conditions are encountered.
Hikers are also reminded that trails on state land above 2,500 feet in elevation remain closed until Memorial Day.

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