2024 Open Woods Ski Season at Jenkins Mountain Announced

PAUL SMITHS, N.Y. – Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC), Adirondack Wilderness Advocates (AWA), Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, and the Adirondack Powder Skier Association today announced that the Jenkins Mountain Open Woods Ski Area will be open to the public for backcountry skiing for a second full season, beginning in January 2024. The 2023 season exceeded expectations, with a perfect safety record, high ratings from users, and establishment of thorough baseline criteria for the associated Visitor Use Management (VUM) project.

The Jenkins Mountain Open Woods Skiing Project was created with two objectives: develop an intermediate/advanced backcountry skiing area at Paul Smiths VIC to allow a safe, enjoyable and challenging backcountry skiing experience; and operate it as a demonstration Visitor Use Management (VUM) project to show VUM’s utility for managing recreational use on public and private lands within the Adirondack Park. The project is timely, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is currently engaged in two VUM study projects for managing the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves.

A Jenkins Mountain Visitor Use Survey, a component of the VUM project, found that 100% of 2023 trail users said the experience met or exceeded their expectations. “Our first season was a great success,” said VIC Director and AWA Board member Scott Van Laer. “The VIC has a wide variety of opportunities for winter recreation, and we really wanted to add a backcountry skiing experience to the mix. Users loved it and we completed the season without a single mishap. We’re excited to usher in the second season.”

The project team followed the VUM process to establish baseline data in 2023, and to assess desired conditions for the physical, biological, and ecological impacts of the trail system on the forest and user experiences. The 2024 season will include monitoring of multiple protocols to measure against these baselines, so that management of the area can adapt as necessary to protect the forest while continuing to satisfy visitors. In this way VUM allows decisions to be made based on robust data that is targeted to the needs of a specific area.

“Careful Adirondack land management involves legality, intentionality, and accountability,” said Adirondack Wild’s Dave Gibson. “Whether it be on public Forest Preserve or on adjacent private land, as here at Jenkins Mountain, introducing a new recreational use creates impacts. Good recreational managers are held accountable so that land use laws are followed, impacts don’t exceed intended thresholds and the new activity meets desired, intended conditions. We think that the Jenkins Mountain backcountry skiing project sets a good example of VUM for others to follow.”

This week the Jenkins project team will be presenting 2023 results and 2024 plans to the APA and DEC. “We intend to share every detail of this project with the state agencies responsible for implementing VUM in New York’s Forest Preserve,” said AWA Board Chair Pete Nelson. “Not only do we want this project to be useful as an example of VUM, but we want it to be a model of collaboration and openness that we think is vital for stakeholders in the Adirondack Park.”

An example of that collaboration is the makeup of the project team. Four different organizations have come to the table with their own interests, yet all are collaborating for the benefit of the project. The trail system was designed and built by Adirondack Powder Skier Association founder Ron Konowitz, who hopes to use project data to demonstrate the minimal impact of backcountry skiing trails on the surrounding forest. “After such an extensive planning, recording and baseline monitoring process, it was wonderful to see the smiling faces of the skiers enjoying the open woods backcountry ski trails that we were able to create with so little vegetative management,” said Konowitz. “Our first season was quite successful. I look forward to sharing this project with the APA and DEC as a model for future backcountry ski trails on NYS Forest Preserve Lands.”

Starting at the Paul Smiths College VIC on State Route 30, the Jenkins Mountain Open Woods Ski Area is accessible from the Jenkins Mountain ski trail and contains a skin track and three downhill routes, designed for intermediate or advanced backcountry skiers. Users of the area are required to have a Paul Smith’s College VIC Trail Pass, Ski Helmet, Full Climbing Skins, and Alpine Touring Skis, Telemark Skis, or Splitboards. Nordic skis and snowshoes are not permitted.

More information about the Jenkins Backcountry Ski Area can be found at https://www.paulsmithsvic.org/jms-ski-zone/.

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