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Avalanche risk for backcountry explorers

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/08/2016

© Getty Images Skiers, snowboarders, climbers and trampers have been warned that the coming week could be a dangerous time to explore parts of New Zealand's backcountry not normally associated with avalanches.

This follows fresh concerns that New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) forecasters have about the avalanche risk across the country.

The Mountain Safety Council runs the NZAA and chief executive Mike Daisley says some lower altitude regions are predicted to have an avalanche risk over the next 48 to 72 hours, "which is pretty uncommon".

He says places that normally may never have a risk are now potentially vulnerable to slab avalanches.

"We know it's an exciting time, and the snow is finally here," he said.

"Just make sure you're making good decisions. It's about having a great time and making it home to your family."

Mr Daisley said the NZAA was one part of the decision-making process for safe travel in the backcountry in winter.

He said it was imperative that people checked NZAA and Metservice forecasts, had the correct equipment and were trained to use that equipment.

NZAA forecaster Trevor Streat said "storm slab" avalanche conditions existed on steep slopes that had had a rapid build-up of new snow.

"Because we are looking at heavy falls to quite low elevations, this could affect roads and tracks in places where the users would not usually consider the risk of avalanching," he said.

"There is likely to be a cycle of loose wet snow avalanches at lower elevations as soon as the sun comes out or temperatures rise."

Mr Streat said people had to consider how much snow was sitting on the slopes above before moving out when things warmed up.

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