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.
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.
Read Avalanche Accidents in Aotearoa 2020
Here is the story of a survivor Jamie - Avalanche Rescue September 2016
To be avalanche aware, you need to have three key platforms nailed before you head to the backcountry.
The necessary skills and training to identify and avoid avalanches and rescue others when things go wrong
2. Get the forecast
The current weather forecast and backcountry avalanche advisory is essential to decide whether to go or not. 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.
In the event of an avalanche rescue, you need the equipment to save your own or someone else's life. Carry avalanche transceivers, probes and metal-blade shovels and know how to use them.
While you are out in alpine areas, it will take your skills and concentration to analyse the snowpack using recommended test to assess the likelihood of triggering an avalanche. Check your surroundings for recent avalanche activity, changes in terrain, snowpack and weather. Learn to recognise avalanche terrain, travel one at a time across potential avalanche slopes,
Even with the forecast, conservative decision-making and careful route planning, you might need to apply your rescue techniques in the event of an avalanche. Watch the video below to learn what this might entail and book a practical course to learn how to save a life.
Continue your education in avalanche safety with our online resources and useful links.