The Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island hold endless adventures and Mt. Aspiring National Park, as well as the backcountry found off Treble and Cardrona are very popular for backcountry enthusiasts.
However, it’s important to remember that the mountains can be dangerous and unpredictable. It’s essential that you are prepared with the right equipment, experience and training. The information and resources below will help you stay safe when you head into the backcountry this winter.
Wānaka’s ski areas all provide access to backcountry touring during the winter season. It’s important to remember that access is a privilege and each ski area has its own rules. Be aware that the ski areas do not conduct avalanche control or provide ski patrol outside of the ski area boundaries. When you leave the ski area, you’re entirely responsible for your own safety.
Cardrona Alpine Resort: When you arrive at Cardrona, report to the ski patrol for the latest conditions. Be sure to let them know if you will be leaving a vehicle in the car park after 5pm. Learn more
Before leaving a ski area boundary, please ensure you understand the risks involved in backcountry. Carry the appropriate equipment, check local weather forecasts and avalanche conditions, always travel in a group, and never alone. It’s also essential to tell someone your intentions – where you’re going, and when you’re expecting to be back.
One of the most dangerous aspects of backcountry ski-touring is the risk of avalanches. Always check the NZ Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) before you depart and remember that a ‘low’ danger forecast does not mean NO danger. If you’re accessing the backcountry from a commercial ski area, then talk to ski patrol to understand the latest conditions and risks.
Attending an avalanche awareness course is highly recommended to help plan your backcountry touring expeditions and to learn what to do in the case of an avalanche. In Wānaka, Adventure Consultants and Aspiring Guides run avalanche awareness and ski touring courses. A list of other course providers can be found here.
Transceiver: Avalanche transceivers transmit a signal which can be used to locate a buried skier in the event of an avalanche. Avalanche beacons should be worn and understood by every person entering the backcountry. Check and replace the batteries regularly.
Probe: Your probe is used to pierce through the avalanche debris and pinpoint the exact location of the buried victim. Systematic probing allows you to exactly pinpoint the location of the buried person.
Shovel: Once you’ve located a buried skier, you’ll need to dig them out. Shovelling is obviously an integral aspect of avalanche rescue. An efficient and strategic shovelling technique can save you minutes, which is critical for the buried person. It is extremely important that you select a good shovel and practice as often as possible.
It’s also best practice to carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) for use in emergencies. Consider bringing along a map and compass.
Adventure Consultants offer ski-touring courses and guiding. New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC) Avalanche Awareness training is also available.
Aspiring Guides provide a variety of backcountry ski-touring services including guided day trips or multi-days adventures. They also provide MSC Avalanche Awareness courses.
Heli skiing is the ultimate backcountry skiing experience, with helicopter access to spectacular terrain with the support of qualified guides.
New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC)
Safety information and resources to help you #MakeItHomeNZ
Ski Touring New Zealand is a useful reference guide to backcountry ski touring in New Zealand. Information available includes recommended ski-touring locations, routes, safety information and gear reviews.
New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA)
Online beginners guide to avalanche forecasts, danger scales, danger types and some of the mitigation’s available. Attending a hands-on course is highly recommended to get practical experience.