Media Release: Storm Slab Avalanche Risk Warning From Mountain Safety Council
New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) forecasters have fresh concerns about the avalanche risk across the country. Run by the Mountain Safety Council (MSC) the NZAA is a critical tool to help gauge avalanche risk in the backcountry said chief executive Mike Daisley.
“Our forecasters are predicting some lower altitude regions to have and avalanche risk in the next 48–72 hours which is pretty uncommon.”
“Places that normally may never have a risk are now potentially vulnerable to slab avalanches.”
‘Storm Slab’ avalanche conditions will exist on steep slopes that have had a rapid buildup of new snow said NZAA forecaster Trevor Streat.
“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.”
“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.”
“This could affect roads and tracks traversing steep terrain or cutting beneath bluffs that don’t usually have a problem. People need to consider how much snow is sitting on the slopes above before moving out on the first day that things warm up.”
As this dynamic weather situation develops, snowfall modelling reports sent to the Mountain Safety Council suggest there could be up to a meter of snow load in localised regions. Slab avalanches are more likely in high snowfall that occurs in steep terrain and over a short period.
“Storm Slab avalanches are typified by heavy loading in a storm. Once this is warmed up as the storm passes, it can become very unstable. This could include traditional farming regions of the South Island that are potentially due to get loaded from a south to south-east weather flow in the coming days,” said Daisley.
MSC is advising backcountry skiers, snowboarders, climbers and trampers that the next week could be a very dangerous time to explore the backcountry in certain parts of the country.
“We know it’s an exciting time, and the snow is finally here, just make sure you’re making good decisions. It’s about having a great time and making it home to your family,” said Daisley.