Following the death of a snowboarder in an avalanche near Coronet Peak last weekend it's a good time for you all to learn about the risks associated with skiing and riding backcountry. Let's not have a similar incident up here!
First, let's be clear - You shouldn't ever be exposed to an avalanche that could bury you within the ski area boundary. Inside the boundaries we trigger avalanches before we open while there's no one around to get caught in them.
Outside the ski area boundary we do not do any avalanche control.
We have spectacular backcountry terrain on Ruapehu easily accessed from the lifts and it's extremely tempting to follow the tracks out into the glacier or black magic without a second thought. But please be aware that accessible does not necessarily mean safe! If ten people have skied a line already it doesn't mean you won't be the unlucky one to trigger an avalanche.
EVERY TIME you head into the backcountry you should have:
- The knowledge and practice to use it
- A friend with all of the above
BEFORE you head out you should:
- Get educated - attend an MSC approved avalanche awareness course
- Know the risk level - check www.avalanche.net.nz, check the avalanche advisory boards around the ski areas, talk to a patroller
- Make a call on whether you're comfortable with that risk level. Ignore peer pressure. Guys, this is not the time to impress the girls. You'll be much more impressive alive.
Once you're in the backcountry
- Be aware of your surroundings. Take note of possible avalanche terrain. Look and listen carefully
- When crossing avalanche terrain go one by one
- Look out for one another. Stay with your group and watch for each other.
If you see someone caught in an avalanche:
- Watch carefully. Try to work out where they might end up based on where you last saw them
- Call for help. If you call customer services on the mountain (06 385 8456 at Turoa and 07 892 3738 at Whakapapa) or 111 they will get the message to our AMI IcePack avalanche rescue team
- Leave at least one person on the scene to start the search.
In an avalanche time is of the essence. Survival rates drop dramatically after someone has been buried for more than 15 minutes. This is where a transceiver, probe and shovel make all the difference. The AMI IcePack will get on scene as fast as possible and their target response time to our main backcountry areas is within 15 minutes. The AMI IcePack dogs are super talented and will use their noses to find buried people.
Have fun out there in the backcountry. It really is stunning out there. Just be smart about it.