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Snow Code for Snowsports

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  The Outdoor Safety Code

Plan Your Trip

Tell Someone Your Plans

Be Aware Of The Weather

Know Your Limits

Take Sufficient Supplies

2. Be Aware of the Weather

New Zealand’s changeable weather conditions frequently catch out the unprepared. 


Weather has a major impact on trips in the outdoors. An easy and relaxed trip in warm weather can be physically and mentally demanding if the weather turns cold and wet. Strong winds, soft snow, or high rivers may make a route impassable. Obtaining a weather forecast is a good place to start, but you'll need sufficient equipment for whatever comes your way. Carry (and expect to use) rain jackets throughout the year. 

Learn to observe the weather

High-cloud signs
The wind that you experience is affected by the landforms around you. It may be quite different from the general wind flow associated with the pressure system. You can get some idea of the strength and direction of the general wind flow by observing cloud movement.

Movement of the highest cloud is often difficult to see. Wispy, cirrus clouds, which look like mares’ tails or streamers, indicate strong, high-level winds and are often the first sign of bad weather.

Northerly winds at high levels are usually a sign of bad weather. If a southerly front with associated bad weather has passed through, southerlies with cumulus clouds (fluffy, isolated shapes in a blue sky) indicate a settled period in which trips may be done safely.

Low-cloud sign
The gradual thickening and lowering of the cloud base is an ominous sign. The sun or moon becomes dim or watery as it gradually becomes obscured by the thickening cloud.

‘Hogsbacks’ (smooth, lens-shaped clouds) which form over mountain tops or immediately lee of the tops, are associated with strong winds at that level. As bad weather approaches, they usually become bigger.

This would suggest that you probably need to revise your plans for the next day.


Learn more: Consult the MSC Bushcraft Manual and download the above poster "New Zealand Cloud Types" from MetService by following this link.

How to read weather maps

The Met Service has a "How to read Weather Maps" page Written by Bob McDavitt, Weather Ambassador, Meteorological Service of New Zealand Ltd.

The government website Teara.govt.nz also has easy to digest information to help you understand New Zealand weather maps.
green-arrowTe Ara weather info


NZ Avalanche Advisory

New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) is fantastic for getting the most up to date information on avalanche risk levels at popular mountains around the country.

If you are heading into avalanche terrain, check here first and remember, avalanches can happen all year round.

Weather Forecasts


Get the latest weather forecasts for your next trip:

green-arrowSki field reports
green-arrowNational Park reports

Mountain Radio
Groups carrying a mountain radio can hear a mountain weather forecast at `scheduled’ times.

Long-range forecasts
These forecasts indicate the weather that can be expected over the following few days. Treat any times given for expected changes with caution. Obtain the most up-to-date forecast for the area you plan to go into.

Mountain Safety Council managed websites
Mountain Saftey CouncilAdventure SmartAvalanche.net.nz