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Backcountry Night #1 Recap (2024)

A big thanks to Mal from Vertical Resources and Tim from Wanaka Mountain Guides for speaking to a keen bunch of 50+ at the first of our Backcountry Information evenings!
Also thanks to Off-Piste Provisions for the tasty meal toppers - purchase more instore along with the super tasty jerky and crackling :-)

Mal discussed the previous two year's snow packs highlighting the different challenges ski patrollers and backcountry users faced...

We revisited 2022, year of the 'Glide cracks' where a huge amount of snow fell early in the season, almost to the day, on warm ground. This created an insulating effect where the ground was never able to cool and the snow not able to properly bond to it. The consequences left us with an entire snow pack determined to slide it's way off the hillside. Unlike other types of avalanche hazards, glide cracks are incredibly unpredictable. Warm temperatures increase the likelihood of a slide, cool temperatures create a brittle snowpack that even a small trigger could fracture. An interesting year for TC ski patrol in particular!

2023 brought us a different problem. An elusive Persistent Weak Layer. Cool temperatures early in the season created a weak and brittle layer upon which more snow fell. This layer failed in many places from the Queenstown/Wanaka area up into Mt Cook resulting in avalanches up to Grade 5 in size.

Mal's key takeaways from this discussion were that just because these hazards exist, it doesn't mean you can't head out into the backcountry BUT you must understand both how the different hazards behave and how you can travel and play in the backcountry in a way that keeps you, your mates and fellow adventurers safe. This segued into the different courses available to help us upskill.

Tim talked about the different upskilling pathways to get you ready for the missions you want to get out for...

Avalanche Skills Course 1

1.5 days

Previously known as Avalanche Awareness, this Mountain Safety Council endorsed short course is the first step in backcountry travelers’ avalanche education. It provides a framework to plan trips, recognise the potential avalanche hazard and safely manage a group through the backcountry. The course also provides instruction in the latest companion rescue techniques. Combine with and Introduction to Ski Touring for the complete beginners backcountry package.

Avalanche Skills Course 2

4 days

Previously known as the Backcountry Avalanche Course, this Mountain Safety Council endorsed longer course will continue to build your knowledge of avalanche risk management. Participants should have completed the Avalanche Skills Course 1 and consolidated their experience with some self-led tours. The course will develop the techniques for making good decisions about safe travel in more challenging terrain and snow packs.

Avalanche Skills Refresher

Avalanche Skills Refresher days can be tailored to the aspirations of the group. Revising concepts and exercises from a previously attended ASC1 or ASC2. The day can include coaching on trip planning or terrain analysis through to practising and fine-tuning skills on companion rescue scenarios.

Avalanche Skills for Mountaineers

Avalanche Skills for Mountaineers focuses on avalanche risk management for mountain activities on foot. It provides a framework to plan trips, recognise potential avalanche hazards, and manage risk whilst undertaking alpine climbs and tramps. The course also provides instruction in the latest companion rescue techniques.

For more info or to book a course reach out to Tim at Wanaka Mountain Guides or Mal at Vertical Resources