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Check Spring avalanche conditions carefully

Mountain Safety Council advise to check Spring avalanche conditions carefully

With the arrival of Spring, Mountain Safety Council (MSC) are warning the avalanche danger is not over for backcountry skiers and snowboarders. Chief executive Mike Daisley is keen to point out that warmer weather will create a different type of hazard.

“Spring in the mountains is characterised by more unsettled weather patterns, warming temperatures and the rise in frequency of ‘Loose Wet Avalanches’ that are potentially just as dangerous as a slab avalanche in winter” said Daisley.

“With rising temperatures and longer days it’s easy to understand why Spring skiing is so popular. But the rise in temperature will begin to change the snowpack over time.” said Daisley.

Loose wet avalanches are common in Spring and behave differently to slab avalanches. Trevor Street, a forecaster for the NZ Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) said the risks associated with loose wet avalanches are significant.

“Loose wet avalanches are common in Spring, especially on the first warm fine day following fresh snowfall” said Street.

“Avoiding loose wet snow avalanches is all about understanding the terrain, aspect to the sun and timing. The danger usually exists for hours rather than days and often follows the sun from east through north to west aspects through the day.” said Street.

“They often initiate naturally on steep mixed terrain and run out on to slopes below. The debris is heavy and wet so even small wet avalanches have to potential to bury or injure a person” said Street.

“Survival times for those buried are short as there is much less air in wet debris than in a dry snow avalanche.” said Street.

“Avoiding loose wet snow avalanches is all about understanding terrain, aspect to the sun and timing. The danger usually exists for hours rather than days and often follows the sun from east through north to west aspects through the day.” said Street.

“It’s really about making sure you know the terrain you’re going into, get a handle on the conditions via the forecast and take the right equipment” said Street.

MSC promotes understanding and respect for the conditions as paramount for all backcountry users. Checking the conditions via the NZ Avalanche Advisory remains a key step in the trip planning process for all backcountry users.

“It’s imperative that you check the NZAA forecast at avalanche.net.nz before you go. Understand the conditions and prepare accordingly” said Daisley.

For more information on local conditions head to the NZAA website (avalanche.net.nz)


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