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February 15, 2013

Winter is wonderful, as long as you don't freeze

The Daily Star

---- — I went skiing Wednesday at Belleayre Mountain. It was one on those spectacular winter days. Temperatures were in the lower 30s, there was no wind and the sky was as blue as it gets. The sun was bright and the conditions were perfect.

One of the best parts of the day was the magnificent views of the Catskills from on top of the mountain. We’d get off the chairlift and there it was in front of us. It was perfectly clear, so we could see every mountain peak for at least

30 miles.

I bring this up because this winter is a wonderful time to hike in the Catskills as well. There’s little snow in the woods and every peak has a view.

I have always preferred to hike in the Adirondacks because of all the treeless summits. You can see other mountains from the tops of many of the High Peaks, but the Catskills lack that once the leaves come out, for the most part. There are few mountaintops in the Catskills that offer the views I am interested in seeing come summer.

I can hear it now from some of you: It’s cold out there!

Sure it is. It’s winter in the Northeast, and that usually means snow, ice and freezing temperatures. But let me tell you about a young friend of mine and cold weather.

Jonathan Deitch is a local man. He grew up in Franklin, works at Covidien in Hobart and has become a fantastic photographer. He likes to hike in the Adirondacks, too.

Even as crazy as I am, though, I question his sanity sometimes.

Last weekend, he went to the High Peaks to get some photographs of the snow-covered mountains and the ice-covered ponds in the backcountry. He and a friend started hiking in at midnight to get the photos he wanted when the sun came up. The only problem he had was staying warm enough. It was 25 degrees below zero.

Now that’s cold!

Preparation is the key to survival when it gets cold. Jonathan used hand-warmers stuffed into his clothes to help with the cold because getting the right picture is truly a standing-still, waiting game.

Was his adventure a success? It sure was. He got the photographs he wanted. You might want to check out his work on Facebook. I think he has an amazing talent and a very creative eye.

In the morning, Jonathan ran into other winter hikers. He heard stories of a mountain rescue that was taking place that day. Someone fell off the side of one of the mountains farther back into the backcountry. Mistakes happen a lot more when it gets cold and icy.

Jonathan joked one day saying, “Once you go numb, it’s easier.”

But that’s not the case in the winter when you’re hiking and camping. The truth is that once you get numb, you can die. It doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in when it gets cold.

If you are going to hike or play outside in the winter, wearing several layers of proper clothing and using a little common sense are essential.

For those who like these winter sports, you already know what it’s like to be cold. But do you know a simple test to tell if you’re body core is chilling and hypothermia is setting in?

Hold out your hand in front of your face and try to touch your thumb and index finger together. If you can’t, hypothermia already has started to take hold. So get warmed up as quickly as you can.

Good luck and enjoy.

What’s happening?

The DEC and NYS Parks and Recreation will hold a free fishing day and ice fishing clinic from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday at Glimmerglass State Park. The events are open to the public. A warming area and refreshments are available. Bait and tackle will be provided. If you own equipment, bring it because supplies are limited.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at