Avalanche warnings hit season ‘high’ across South Island mountains

17th August 2021|2min


Snow enthusiasts are urged to stay away from the mountains across the country over the next few days due to high avalanche danger ratings, making them an “unsafe place”, says the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC).

MSC said avalanche danger levels have reached a winter season high after the last storm system delivered significant amounts of new snow leaving the mountains a dangerous place.  

It is not common that eight out of 12 avalanche forecasting regions are classified as ‘high’ avalanche danger, and the remaining four as ‘considerable’.  

The ‘high’ ratings regions are the Arthur’s Pass, Craigieburn Range, Aoraki/Mt Cook, Ohau, Queenstown, Wanaka, Fiordland and Nelson Lakes. Those on ‘considerable’ are Tongariro, Taranaki, Mt Hutt and Two Thumbs.  

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 said the recent weather system means the backcountry is not a safe place right now.  

“Significant overnight snowfalls accompanied by strong winds means many ski areas are closed or partially closed today to conduct avalanche control work. This control work doesn’t occur in the backcountry, so it needs even more time to settle and stabilise.” 

MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris said in the last few days New Zealand has had a classic winter snow bringer for the mountainous areas. 

“A good feed of moisture from the northwest with freezing levels low enough to get big accumulations around the alps,” Ferris said.  
Daisley said the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory forecasters need time to reassess the hazards, and while they do this MSC strongly advises staying out of the backcountry which includes mountaineering, backcountry skiing and alpine tramping. 

“It’s vital that people check the latest avalanche advisory before venturing out and follow the guidance provided.”   

The NZAA forecasters will update the 12 regional forecasts at avalanche.net.nz as new information becomes available. 


From 1999 to 2021 there have been 27 avalanche fatalities in New Zealand. 
Data Source: Avalanche Incidents in New Zealand, NZ Mountain Safety Council 2021. 

The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) is owned and managed by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC). 
Travelling safely in avalanche terrain requires three essential components - the skills, equipment and forecast. You can find out more about these here.   

Contact Communications Advisor Rebekah Wilson at rebekah.wilson@mountainsafety.org.nz with any other queries or to organise an interview with Chief Executive Mike Daisley.