Powder-hungry backcountry skiers warned after Mt Ruapehu worker’s narrow escape.

A fresh dumping of snow on mountains around the country has increased the risk of another avalanche.

Just this week a senior snow patroller at Turoa on Mt Ruapehu was swept off his feet by an avalanche and partially buried - but managed to escape without injury.

The man, who asked that his name not be published, was carried 50m in the slide over icy snow and rocks and, uninjured, was left buried to his waist.

"I had gone down an icy slope and as I went off a little ledge there was debris coming down," he said.


He was with other avalanche-control workers but quickly managed to dig himself out of the jumbled avalanche debris. The slide happened near the Jumbo lift line on Ruapehu's southwestern skifield around 11am on Wednesday.

A solo backcountry skier was caught in an avalanche near the Godley Glacier, which feeds Lake Tekapo, at the same time.

Today the forecast on avalanche.net.nz reported Tongariro, Taranaki, Nelson Lakes, Arthur's Pass, Craigieburn Range and Mt Cook are all at "considerable" risk of an avalanche.

Ohau, Two Thumbs, Queenstown and Wanaka all have a "moderate" risk of an avalanche.

Workers have triggered controlled avalanches on various mountain slopes, but no other natural avalanches have been reported.

Around 20cm of snow fell on Ruapehu on Tuesday night, a southerly on Wednesday produced "wind-slab" avalanche conditions, and more snow fell yesterday.

MetService reports the weather should ease up over the weekend and provide ideal skiing conditions on many mountain slopes around the country.

No more major dumping of snow is expected over the weekend - but the snow already on the ground will make for perfect skiing and snowboarding conditions.


Little more than beginner ski and boarding areas have been open at Ruapehu this week but staff have braved the blizzards to reduce avalanche hazards as they look ahead to the blue skies forecast.

The senior snow patroller said he walked onto a low-angle slope intending to dig a "snow-pit" to analyse any weak layers within the snowpack.

"It was probably my second step onto the slope when it released. Things are pretty sensitive."

He said it was a small avalanche - grade 1 on a 1-5 scale, on which a 5 can destroy a village - and he was not scared. It was acceptable for staff to keep working if slides were occurring up to grade 1.5.

"I knew what the hazard was when I was in there and what size avalanches we were expecting. It will still be classed as a near-miss and we will investigate that as well."

His slide was mentioned on the avalanche website to warn powder-hungry backcountry skiers. He appealed to them to take avalanche rescue gear, know how to use it, and to check the avalanche report.

Avalanche expert Andrew Hobman urged backcountry skiers and boarders to wait at least 24 hours after a storm and to stay on lower-angled slopes until instabilities began to settle.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokesman Steve Rendle said the solo skier set off a locator beacon at 3pm on Wednesday and was rescued by helicopter around 5pm.

More detailed snow forecasting and mountain weather conditions can be found on the Metservice website.