Avalanche Safety

Backcountry terrain is neither patrolled nor controlled by professionals, so if you’re planning on going ‘out back’ or beyond the ski area boundary, it’s important to be well trained in avalanche safety and search and rescue techniques at all times of the year. This is equally important for alpine trampers and hunters who may be in avalanche prone regions. 

Can you answer the following? 
  • Do you know how to recognise dangerous avalanche terrain?
  • Do you know how to use rescue equipment?
  • Do you have a transceiver, a probe and a shovel?
  • Do you know what weather sequences lead to avalanche conditions?
  • Have you checked the latest NZAA Backcountry Avalanche Forecast?


Alpine environment - MSC



Quickly explore a section of this page 


The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA)

The New Zealand's Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) is provided for anyone planning on travelling in the New Zealand backcountry alpine areas.

Please note that avalanche forecasts are supplied by the Mountain Safety Council (MSC) and are intended as an advisory only. NZAA and MSC recommend checking the mountain weather forecast provided by MetService as part of your trip planning.

What makes avalanches so dangerous?

Within seconds of an avalanche being triggered, multiple tonnes of snow can travel down a slope at over 100km an hour. This immense force of nature is extremely dangerous so it is vital for you know how to mitigate the risks in avalanche prone areas.

Did you know?

12.5% of mountaineering fatalities are the result of an avalanche.
There and Back, 2016


Check out this video of an avalanche to see the power and danger they possess:

Here is the story of a survivor


Did you know?

NZ avalanches are a potential risk at any time of year.


What you need to know

The Backcountry Checklist

Must Do – before you leave home:

  • Follow the Outdoor Safety Code.
  • Attend an avalanche awareness course.
  • Gather information from books, videos and websites.
  • Plan your trip route, check weather and snow conditions on www.avalanche.net.nz.
  • Anticipate your actions. What you want to do often overrides your better judgement.


Must Do – when in alpine terrain:

  • Check your surroundings for recent avalanche activity, changes in terrain, snowpack and weather.
  • Learn to recognise avalanche terrain.
  • Analyse the snowpack using recommended test to assess the likelihood of triggering an avalanche.
  • Carry avalanche transceivers, probes and metal-blade shovels and know how to use them.
  • Travel one at a time across potential avalanche slopes.


Avalanche signage

Pay attention to signage - no matter what time of year.


Snow Safety Code

Know Your Limits
  • Ride to your ability, control your speed
  • Be aware of the conditions
  • Take a lesson
Find Your Space
  • Stop where you can be seen
  • Give others room
  • Look ahead
Protect Yourself 
  • Obey all signs and closures
  • Tired, take a rest
  • Wear a helmet

pdf Snow Safety Code pdf – 71 KB


Key Resources 




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MSC worked with Epic TV to produce a five part avalanche safety series. Watch the whole series HERE. The video series is designed to be a short beginners guide about avalanche risk, and some basic techniques. Please note: This video series is NOT designed to be a complete training course – we strongly recommend you get training and learn from the experts. Please visit the courses page for more details


The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory

www.avalanche.net.nz is fantastic for getting the most recent information on avalanche risk levels at popular mountains around the country. If you are heading into the backcountry and alpine terrain, check here first. And remember, avalanches happen in summer too.

Learn about effective forms of communications to take

Avalanche transceivers are an essential item to take in avalanche prone areas. - Read about them here.

Read more about your desired activity

Whether you ski, board, tramp or climb – we have specific information you need for your favourite activity – find them here.

Get some of our helpful books and flyers

We have free pamphlets, books and equipment to help you find out more information about avalanche safety in New Zealand from our online store and resources page (pre-searching avalanche).

Attend an avalanche awareness course

Find a course provider in your area to help you learn the essential skills to help you up in the snow courses page.

Southern Hemisphere Alpine Conference 

Check out when our next conference is and what papers have come out of it. 


Helpful links

The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) 

Head to NZAA 

MetService weather forecasts