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Mount Washington Avalanche Center Closes To Discourage Hazardous Outdoor Recreation

Mount Washington Avalanche Center

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will close for the season Monday, officials say, so as not to encourage ill-advised outdoor recreation by continuing to issue their usual daily forecasts. 

“At this time, the need to reduce exposure of workers and forest visitors to the novel coronavirus outweighs the value of providing avalanche safety information to backcountry travelers,” the center says in a statement.

Governor Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order, which took effect Friday, says outdoor exercise is okay during the pandemic -- but also says people should still keep their distance and not travel unnecessarily. 

Despite this and other public health warnings, the Avalanche Center says trails in their area have continued to see, quote "travel and social congregation." Other trails, beaches and recreation areas in the state were also seen to be crowded this past weekend

The Avalanche Center says they interpret the state’s support of continued outdoor recreation to “exclude riskier activities, particularly at a highly popular venue [Mount Washington] which attracts visitors from around the region.” 

The center acknowledges in their statement that the lack of forecasts will increase risks in the backcountry, where avalanches, snow and ice remain possible into early summer. But since travel in these areas isn't essential, the center says, those risks should be assumed.

Bathrooms, campgrounds and shelters for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines are also closed, along with other service areas and recreation spots in the White Mountain National Forest. 

And the center says part of Tuckerman Ravine is now officially off-limits -- an annual closure due to spring thaws that create falling water and dangerous crevasses. The closed area extends from Lunch Rocks to the top of the Headwall where it meets the Alpine Garden Trail. 

“Violating this closure is a misdemeanor offense and will be enforced,” the center says.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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