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New Zealand’s Avalanche Experts Already at Work

New Zealand’s Avalanche Experts Already at Work

The first major snow fall of winter has given the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council’s Avalanche Forecasters plenty of work to do as they get ready for the fast approaching season.

Each winter, the Mountain Safety Council publishes daily danger advisories on their avalanche website www.avalanche.net.nz which provides information and advice on avalanche dangers and travel recommendations.

Eleven alpine regions across New Zealand, from Mt Ruapehu in the north to Fiordland in the south, are covered by the website which also offers video clips, interactive quizzes and information on how to stay safe in alpine terrain.

A lot of work goes on behind the scene to produce the daily advisories. Avalanche experts in each region collect local weather, snowpack and recent avalanche information and then compare and consider this data before calculating the expected avalanche danger. Once the information is up on the website the forecasters continue to evaluate the danger and any weather conditions that may influence changes.

The forecasters spend time digging in the snowpack to look at the present and past snow-fall layers and for any weaknesses in the way these layers are sticking together. They also travel about to observe any avalanche occurrences and collect information from other people who are out in alpine terrain.

“All this work is undertaken to provide people with information to help plan their trip into the mountains,” said Andrew Hobman, Avalanche Programme Manager for the Mountain Safety Council.

“The avalanche advisories are a broad regional forecast for the expected avalanche conditions but things can change quickly and local terrain and weather can produce different dangers. It is important that people understand how to recognise avalanche terrain, if a hazard exists and how to avoid it” said Mr Hobman.

The Mountain Safety Council recommends that anyone who intends to venture into the alpine environment this winter, especially those who enjoy backcountry snowsports, tramping and climbing, takes an avalanche course to educate themselves on how to stay safe. The course also teaches fundamental rescue skills in case an incident occurs.

More information on safe travel, trip planning and course dates can be found on the Mountain Safety Council’s websites www.mountainsafety.org.nz and www.avalanche.net.nz


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