Stories from the Mountains: A New Avalanche Safety Video Series

22nd September 2023|3 min
Media Release | For immediate release

The power of storytelling is at the heart of a new avalanche safety video series launched by the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) today.  

The new series encourages more conversation and sharing of avalanche experiences, especially amongst the mountaineering community, as part of the continued efforts to prevent avalanches fatalities in New Zealand.   

The five initial videos feature a range of Kiwi mountaineers, including a mixture of professionals and recreationalists; Gavin Lang, Sooji Clarkson, Alastair McDowell, Jono Clarke, and Christian Hanson. Each mountaineer shares their avalanche experiences, and their attitude and philosophies developed from time spent in New Zealand’s mountains.  

With decades of combined experience between the five mountaineers, and time spent in some of the country’s most popular backcountry spots including The Remarkables, Taranaki Maunga, Mt Ruapehu and Arthur’s Pass, the series is intended to encourage backcountry enthusiasts to value the importance of reflection and sharing.   

Jono Clarke says, “Generally, if you get caught in a slide or you made a bad decision, you don’t necessarily want to share that because you think it might make you look stupid. But it's important information that could save someone else's life.” 

The new series, produced by Storyworks, comes off the back of MSC’s recent research project Above and Beyond, believed to be a world-first, that explored the culture, behaviours and attitudes of the New Zealand mountaineering community towards avalanche safety. 

MSC analysis of avalanche fatality data from 1999 to 2018 confirmed there have been 27 avalanche fatalities in Aotearoa, with 19 (70%) of them involving mountaineers.   

The research team identified 16 recommendations aimed at improving avalanche safety amongst the mountaineering community, including increased information sharing and more open and regular dialogue amongst the community. 

MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley says the video series is another great example of insights informing MSC’s prevention strategy and how that is shaping and supporting positive attitudes towards avalanche safety across Aotearoa.   

“We strongly believe that sharing stories in a positive way can contribute to improving the overall culture within any community and in this case, towards avalanche safety. The more we share, the more we can all learn.” 

“It’s about reflecting on the role you play within the community and identifying ways to foster more conversation and shared learning about avalanche safety and best practices,” he says.  

Complex conditions in the alpine backcountry this winter have seen many human-triggered avalanches involving recreational backcountry users. This winter is a great example of why sharing experiences and learnings can be so valuable to the mountaineering community, Daisley says.  

MSC owns and operates the NZ Avalanche Advisory, providing avalanche forecasts for 13 regions across New Zealand. Here backcountry users can share public observations including reporting avalanches, incidents, and share information on snow conditions that can support other backcountry users.  

Watch the five-part video series here 


Are you avalanche ready? If you’re heading into the New Zealand back country this winter, be sure to: 

  • Get the forecast 
  • Get the training 
  • Get the gear 

Contact MSC Communications Advisor Rebekah Wilson for anymore information. 

Check out the Avalanche Awareness Series


Header photo: Sooji Clarkson.