Winter Safety

A frigid mountain vista above the treeline.

Winter is a wonderful time in the White Mountains! The woods are quiet with a stark beauty unlike any other time of year. But it takes care and knowledge to safely explore the mountains in winter. With proper planning you can enjoy a safe winter trip to the White Mountains.


Winter Hiking and Climbing

Four climbers cross a stretch of snowy mountain

Winter hiking and climbing take special preparation and planning. You must be prepared for extremes of cold, wind, snow and even rain. Skis or snowshoes are almost always needed. Even if there isn’t much snow at the start of your trip sudden storms can quickly change conditions.

Before considering a winter hike, it’s a good idea to be experienced with summer hiking and camping. A minor injury can become life-threatening in the harsh winter environment.

  • Be sure that someone knows your trip plans.
  • For above-treeline trips an ice axe and crampons are necessities.



Avalanches and ice fall are winter hazards, especially in steeper ravines. Someone in your group should at least always have a basic knowledge of avalanche safety.

Forest Service Snow Rangers post avalanche forecasts advisories for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines. Warnings are posted at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, Tuckerman Ravine, and are also available on the internet.

Heed the warnings—they could save your life.



Your best defense against hypothermia is your brain: good judgment, preparation and knowledge can help keep you from becoming a victim.

Always have the following: 

  • Adequate clothing with you, enough to spend a night if an emergency arises.
  • Layered clothing is preferable since it allows you to easily adjust to changes in your exertion level.
  • Wool, or a synthetic such as polypropylene is best. Cotton should be left at home since it can't keep you warm when it gets wet.
  • Good boots designed for winter use (felt pacs or lined double boots) are essential. 

Your body is like a furnace, and food and water are needed to keep the fire burning. Drink at least two quarts of water and eat many small meals throughout the day.

If anyone in your group is slowing down, stumbling, shivering or showing any signs of difficulty--don't be afraid to turn back! Don't wait until you or someone in your group is unable to continue. At the first sign, move the person to a sheltered location and rewarm them with warm sweet drinks (if able to drink on their own) and warm, dry clothes.

With proper planning you can enjoy a safe winter trip to the White Mountains.