Backcountry skiing and snowboarding is an exhilarating way to enjoy the beauty of the New Zealand winter. Before you head out into the hills though, you've got to be prepared. Check the snow conditions, the avalanche risk and the weather.
NZ used to have a large problem with people getting caught out in avalanches. Since the implementation of avalanche forecasters, availability of training in avalanche awareness and technology aiding rescue the issue has largely been resolved. But this still requires people to know the risks and how to avoid them when venturing out into the backcountry.
In the event of an avalanche the difference between the life and death of a buried victim is minutes. You cannot afford to waste any time trying to figure out your gear! You need to be well practiced and efficient with the functions of your gear and your search and rescue system. Take a course and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!
Employ strategies for identifying and managing fatigue. Ensure this is considered as part of any pre-trip planning and pay this element the due respect it deserves during your trip. Allow time for adequate breaks to rest and take on food/water. Most importantly ensure the culture surrounding your trip allows for topics such as fatigue management to be part of your conversations and communication.
You can find more about alpine and avalanche safety skills in our Resources section.
The first thing to remember is that every trip needs a plan, quick run of two down the back bowl or sidecountry of your favourite ski resort. It doesn't take much to expose yourself to uncontrolled avalanche terrain or turn a quick ski or snowboard into an 'unexpected night out' in the snow. If you've planned before you enter the backcountry using the outdoor safety code as a guide, there's a good chance you'll be prepared to handle an unexpected turn of events.
Safety is the outcome of good planning and good decision making– Mike Daisley, MSC CEO
The Info-Ex is a cooperative service managed by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC) and has been running since 1998. It provides a daily exchange of technical snow, weather and avalanche information between organisations and commercial businesses that actively manage avalanche hazards during the winter months (e.g. heliskiing companies, ski areas and land managers).
The Info-Ex data base allows subscribers to input and view daily weather, snowpack and avalanche observations giving avalanche professionals access to data that is accurate and relevant. This information improves each subscriber's awareness of the conditions across New Zealand, greatly enhancing their ability to manage their local avalanche risks. Info-Ex serves as one of the key sources of data used by the NZ Avalanche Advisory that forecasters use to produce and verify their avalanche advisories.
MSC worked with Epic TV to produce a five part avalanche safety series. 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.
MetService New Zealand - Get the mountain forecast
Attend a Backcountry Avalanche Course - Visit our courses page