Avalanche Safety Series: Forecast

5th July 2019|3min

Is it safe to go today? Should you continue on?

Before you head into backcountry avalanche terrain, you need to ensure you’ve read and understood the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) for the region you’ll be visiting. In this article we’ll outline what this means.

NZ Mountain Safety Council avalanche forecasters produce advisories for 12 regions across NZ. Typically, an updated advisory is produced every day during winter and spring to help participants stay safe.

Why do you need the forecast?

The avalanche forecast is very much like the weather forecast. It’s something you should check every time you go into the hills. Depending on what the forecast contains you may need to adjust your plans in order to avoid dangerous terrain (and by this we mean terrain that may have an increased danger of avalanches).

The avalanche forecast will provide you a broad range of information, such as:

  • A general description of any avalanche concerns
  • The specific danger rating over three defined elevations
  • What types of avalanches are most likely to occur (the Avalanche Problems). For each of these dangers you’ll see:
  • A description of the risk
  • the trend i.e. is the risk increasing or decreasing
  • the likelihood of an avalanche occurring
  • the predicted size
  • the time of day the risk is most likely
  • what aspects and elevations are of concern, for example, North facing slopes above 1800m.

What does the danger rating mean?

The danger scale is a measure of the potential of an avalanche to cause harm or injury to people. The rating is a reflection of the likelihood of triggering and the destructive size of the avalanche. Each danger rating corresponds to three important bits of information: the travel advice, the likelihood of avalanches, and the size of the predicted avalanche.

New Zealand Avalanche Danger Scale

The video below will help explain the Danger Scale in more detail
Avalanche danger ratings are a broad overview of the avalanche forecast. Avalanche problems are an extension of this to help you understand the type of avalanche you may encounter and how you can best avoid them. In the avalanche forecast, avalanche problems are described by avalanche character, location, size, and likelihood of trigger.

Continue learning

Remember this is only the 2nd of 3 steps. The Training and Equipment you take with you are essential for avalanche safety in NZ.