Backcountry users cautioned as heavy snowfall creates avalanche risk

10th June 2022|3min

Those itching to hit the backcountry slopes this weekend in the wake of the latest snowfall are urged to wait it out by the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC).  

MEDIA RELEASE 10/06/2022 | Header Image: NZAA Public Observation Harley Patel-Muxlow, Arthur's Pass National Park 2 June 2022

Caution is advised by MSC as the Southern Alps have recently been heavily blanketed with snow, and more is predicted over the coming week even as far North as Tongariro National Park, making them a dangerous place. 

The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA), owned by MSC, has commenced forecasting early this season in light of the current weather systems.

Currently, the Arthur’s Pass, Craigieburn Range, Aoraki/Mt Cook, and new Aspiring region are all classified as ‘high’ avalanche danger, while Nelson Lakes sits at ‘considerable’.  

Many of the remaining regions, including Tongariro in the North Island, Fiordland, and Wanaka will begin forecasting over the coming days due to this early season snowfall. 

High danger level indicates very dangerous avalanche conditions where travel is not recommended as natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely, according to the New Zealand Avalanche Advsiory (NZAA). 

MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley says anytime the mountains receive large amounts of fresh snow like this, there needs to be a grace period , sometimes multiple days, for it to settle. 

Due to the time of year, avalanche forecasters have very little conditions data available to them. since ski areas, guiding operations and heli ski companies are not yet fully operational. 

“This lack of data means there will be an extra layer of uncertainty for a few weeks, so conservative decision making is a must,” Daisley says. 
Ski areas also typically make up the rescue teams for when things go wrong, and as they aren’t yet open for the season, help would be that much further away if you get into strife, he says.  
“This early snowfall is great news as it should set up for a great season ahead by setting an excellent base, but make sure make sure you pick the right moment to step out for the first time so you can enjoy the fruits of nature’s labour, safely.”  

“The snowfall is predicted to be quite variable across the regions so checking the the latest avalanche advisory will help you find out not only where is safe, but also which regions will have some of the better conditions once things settle.” 

The NZAA forecasters will update the 13 regional forecasts at as new information becomes available. 


The new Aspiring forecast region, means the Mt Aspiring National Park, Mt Brewster, the Treble Cone backcountry, and Main Divide areas now have more tailored forecasting.