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?


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


Here is the story of a survivor Jamie - Avalanche Rescue September 2016


Watch an avalanche to see the power and danger they possess:

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.

Key Resources 

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  

 Videos | Epic TV Series 

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.

Attend an avalanche awareness course

Start with our free online course, then find a course provider in your area to help you learn the essential skills to help you up in the snow courses page.

180716.MSC.COM.Resources web avalanche course


Like our MSC Alpine Facebook Page!Like our Alpine Facebook Page

Tune in with the other snow bunnies in this group, we also update this community with our NZ Avalanche Forecasts during the snow season.

Media releases

Helpful Links

MetService New Zealand

Get the forecast

The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) 

Head to NZAA 

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