NZSki staff prepare to board a snow-groomer to help in the
grid search on Thursday. Photo by Christina McDonald.
Just 18 minutes after being alerted about Thursday's
avalanche, searchers were out on the Remarkables skifield.
NZSki chief executive James Coddington said it was standard
operating procedure to investigate, despite the avalanche
being "considerably outside the ski area".
The 80m wide by 100m long avalanche fell in an area known as
the "Terminator Chute", and while it may not have trapped
anyone, the exercise to confirm this was recognised by
emergency services as a success.
Mr Coddington said yesterday he was "immensely proud of the
team effort" from the 40 Remarkables and Coronet Peak staff
involved in the search, as well as assistance from other
The Remarkables' avalanche dog, who is stationed at the
skifield for the season, was joined by two dogs and their
trainers from Cardrona and they walked the debris before a
"Grid lines are created so that you are covering one square
inch with probes ... it's extremely labour intensiveand
energy sapping at best,"
Mr Coddington said.
Although "there was a narrow chance that someone was buried",
that did not "diminish the attitude" of searchers who worked
to carry out a full rescue response.
The emergency came in the week before the Remarkables'
scheduled closing for 2012, though he said the quick response
indicated it did not matter whether such an event occurred on
the first or last day of the season.
With helicopters transporting rescue personnel and constantly
hovering over the site, one ski patroller stood visually
co-ordinating the helicopters for three hours.
Once the search concluded at 7pm, off the helicopters came "a
lot of very tired people who had been on site for three plus
hours who had been doing very physical work", Mr Coddington
Added to the physical efforts was the cost of hiring
helicopters and paying staff, though "that's just part of the
cost of business".
The Mountain Safety Council said the avalanche was part of a
normal cycle of spring events, but highlighted the dangers of
the alpine back country.
Those planning to travel in such areas could check the
avalanche risk on the Mountain Safety Council's website:
The Remarkables skifield opened as usual yesterday, as did