Avalanche Safety

Backcountry terrain is neither patrolled nor controlled by professionals, so if you’re planning on going ‘out back’ or beyond the ski area boundary, it’s important to be well trained in avalanche safety and search and rescue techniques at all times of the year. This is equally important for alpine trampers and hunters who may be in avalanche prone regions. 

Can you answer the following? 
  • Do you know how to recognise dangerous avalanche terrain?
  • Do you know how to use rescue equipment?
  • Do you have a transceiver, a probe and a shovel?
  • Do you know what weather sequences lead to avalanche conditions?
  • Have you checked the latest NZAA Backcountry Avalanche Forecast?

Quickly explore a section of this page 

The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA)

The New Zealand's Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) is provided for anyone planning on travelling in the New Zealand backcountry alpine areas.

Please note that avalanche forecasts are supplied by the Mountain Safety Council (MSC) and are intended as an advisory only. NZAA and MSC recommend checking the mountain weather forecast provided by MetService as part of your trip planning.

What makes avalanches so dangerous? 

Within seconds of an avalanche being triggered, multiple tonnes of snow can travel down a slope at over 100km an hour. This immense force of nature is extremely dangerous so it is vital for you know how to mitigate the risks in avalanche prone areas.

Did you know?

12.5% of mountaineering fatalities are the result of an avalanche.
– There and Back, 2016


Here is the story of a survivor Jamie - Avalanche Rescue September 2016


Watch an avalanche to see the power and danger they possess:

What you need to know

The Backcountry Checklist

Must Do – before you leave home:

  • Follow the Outdoor Safety Code.
  • Attend an avalanche awareness course.
  • Gather information from books, videos and websites.
  • Plan your trip route, check weather and avalanche advisory conditions on www.avalanche.net.nz.
  • Anticipate your actions. What you want to do often overrides your better judgement.

Must Do – when in alpine terrain:

  • Check your surroundings for recent avalanche activity, changes in terrain, snowpack and weather.
  • Learn to recognise avalanche terrain.
  • Analyse the snowpack using recommended test to assess the likelihood of triggering an avalanche.
  • Carry avalanche transceivers, probes and metal-blade shovels and know how to use them.
  • Travel one at a time across potential avalanche slopes.

Key Resources

Avalanche Awareness Series

This series was developed with EpicTV to introduce backcountry participants to to the basics of avalanche awareness. It covers:

1. Trip Planning and Preparation

2. Important Equipment

3. Snowpack Observations and Warning Signs

4. Risk Reduction in Avalanche Terrain

5. Avalanche Rescue Techniques

Watch the first episode below

Get the Training

Start with our free online course, then find a course provider in your area to help you learn the essential skills to help you up in the courses page on avalanche.net.nz

Online Avalanche Course

Jump onto our free online avalanche course that introduces you to the basics of avalanche types, factors and how to reduce the risk in avalanche terrain.

Try it out