Backcountry Snowsports

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.

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Prepare for your trip

What should I take? 

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.

  • Avalanche transceivers should be worn by every person entering the backcountry. 
  • Shoveling is an extremely important aspect of avalanche rescue. A proficient and strategic shoveling technique can save you minutes, which is critical for the buried person.
  • A probe is what will actually find the person.  
  • Other recommended gear includes an inclinometer, map and compass and a helmet. Go to for more information.

Questions to consider before you head out 

  • What route are you planning to take?
  • How long will it take you?
  • Do you have enough experience to climb this mountain?
  • Is it within the limits of everyone in the group?
  • Have you factored in enough time in case it takes longer than expected?
  • How will you manage fatigue on your descent
  • Where are you planning to go?
  • How long will it take you to get there?
  • How long will it take you to get out again?
  • What is the avalanche forecast?
  • How will you test the snowpack when you get there?
  • Have you factored in enough time in case it takes longer than expected?
  • Do you have all the gear you'll need?  
Manage Fatigue

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.



Prepare for the risk of avalanches

You can find more about alpine and avalanche safety skills in our Resources section.

Learn more

Helpful Resources 

New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) 

Use to check the backcountry avalanche advisory and share your own observations with others.

Learn more

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  

Online Avalanche Course

Jump onto our free online avalanche course that introduces you to the basics of avalanche types, factors and how to reduce the risk in avalanche terrain.

Try it out

Avalanche Awareness Series

This video series is designed to be a short beginners guide about avalanche risk, and some basic techniques. Watch the full series here.

Media Releases

Helpful Links 

MetService New Zealand - Get the mountain forecast

Find out more

Attend a Backcountry Avalanche Course - Visit our courses page

Find out more 

Learn about avalanches >>