Being avalanche aware this winter

1st July 2021|2 min

Media release July 1

The start of the backcountry avalanche forecasting season is here with all 12 New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) regions underway with forecasting from today.  

With all systems go, the NZAA, which is run by the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC), encourage all winter backcountry users to keep up-to-date on snowpack conditions and avalanche danger by looking at their regional avalanche advisory before heading out.  

The polar blast that blanketed snow across much of the country this week boosted the hopes of many ski field operators with many planning to open soon. 

Many backcountry participants will also be gearing up for their first winter adventures as ski fields provide a common accessway to the surrounding backcountry.  

The NZAA forecasting supports backcountry participants in avalanche prone areas across the country. 

Backcountry users are typically skiers, climbers, hunters, or trampers who want to explore beyond ski area boundaries to experience more remote and challenging alpine areas, and typically this is where the avalanche danger is heightened as the snowpack is not controlled. 

MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley urges these users to keep a regular watch on the NZAA website. 

“Users can check the avalanche advisory written by professional forecasters who have the best knowledge on local conditions, while also looking back at past public observations from the same area”. 

“Conditions are quite variable around the country at present. Parts of Canterbury have a good amount of snow cover, but in many areas there is a sliding hazard due to ice,” he says. 

“Snow cover is thin in many other regions, so being mindful of rocks and creeks will be key to avoid damaging gear or yourself.” 
 
“Also, be sure to share what you see out there this season by submitting public observations on the website. It’s the best way to share info on conditions or avalanches with your community, and it puts you in the running for some awesome prizes this winter.” 

Ends 

From 1999 to 2018, there were 742 reported avalanche incidents in New Zealand’s outdoors, including 27 fatalities. Travelling safely in avalanche terrain requires three essential components - the skills, equipment and forecast. You can find out more here.  

Main photo: Skiing the Tasman Glacier in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park during the 2020 season. PHOTO/TOM HARRIS

A small slab avalanche in the Tongariro region on June 5 this year. Photo by Tyler Waters as a public observation on avalanche.net.nz.