Avalanche risk on rise

While the skifields welcomed the more traditionally timed arrival of snow this year, the weather is not all good news.

Mountain Safety Council avalanche and alpine manager Andrew Hobman said the avalanche risk has increased following heavy snow in the Otago region during the past week.

"Every time we get new snow the risk rises," Mr Hobman said.

"But you really haven't got any risk until you throw people in there."

In Queenstown, strong winds have raised concerns about the possibility of wind-slab avalanches, which result from the wind blowing snow to the side of the mountain facing away from the wind.

The transported snow "usually doesn't stick well" to the existing snow and there was a chance the loose slab could break away from the snow base.

"Those are the ones that catch people out most often."

The Remarkables ski area was closed yesterday due to strong winds which the MetService described as a "severe southwest gale" at 2000m.

Today was forecast to be similar, with winds "gusting 90kmh in exposed places" at 1000m and severe gales at 2000m.

Last Saturday, Coronet Peak was unable to open due to heavy rain which saturated the snow.

Mr Hobman said people could still enjoy the snow, but it was important they understood the risks, the weather and what suitable skiing terrain was.

"Get out there, have a great day. Just come home again."



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