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Alpine back country winter safety

Safe backcountry travel in Victorian Alpine areas during winter requires training and experience.  You control your risk by choosing how, when and where you travel, and the activities you participate in.

Backcountry skiing and snowboarding has inherent risks and therefore is an activity that requires training, experience, judgement and knowledge of the terrain, hazards and conditions.  Visitors must also be properly equipped for their chosen activity.

Visitors to the Alpine National Park, especially those visiting the higher elevation areas of Mount Bogong and Mount Feathertop, are likely to encounter a range of hazards each winter including unstable and deep snow; steep icy slopes; cornice formation; avalanches; and, extreme weather. Visitors need to be prepared and experienced to manage these hazards.

Parks Victoria recommends visitors are well informed about current and forecast weather, snowpack and avalanche hazards. Backcountry visitors should not travel alone; and, notify someone where they are travelling and when they will make next contact. Visitors should also fill in the intentions book at trail-heads to your destination (eg. Mountain Creek, Razorback).

Stay informed

There is no specific backcountry avalanche advisory service for Victorian backcountry locations that can provide an accurate assessment of backcountry conditions.  Victorian Alpine Resort Management Boards periodically provide information regarding avalanche risk in resort managed areas only. Parks Victoria may use such information to inform emergency services of general avalanche risk in backcountry areas outside resorts.

Parks Victoria recognises there are differences in conditions in resort managed areas and conditions in the backcountry.  These differences include altitude (possibly 200-300m), snow pack, precipitation, snowfall and depths, and wind effects.  These differences may dilute the accuracy of any backcountry condition predictions. Hazards and risks may also persist in backcountry areas for longer periods than in resort managed areas.

Warnings and community information, including storm, floods and avalanche risk are provided by www.emergency.vic.gov.au and the VicEmergency App. Parks Victoria recommends this information as a tool to assist backcountry visitors in their decision making.

Avalanche

While Parks Victoria supports backcountry experiences in the Alpine National Park, there are inherent risks that exist in these areas, which increase dramatically during the winter months.  Although an avalanche is just one of those risks, the general information below is provided to assist in reducing your risk from avalanche when undertaking backcountry travel and activities:

  1. Learn to identify terrain and weather conditions likely to heighten the risk of avalanche, including:
    • knowing the area,
    • its avalanche history and terrain (slope angle, aspect, elevation, terrain traps and common trigger points)
    • changes in the snowpack and weather that contribute to these changes (precipitation, wind speed/direction, temperature and moisture content)
  2. Have a plan
  3. Carry avalanche equipment (shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver beacon) and practice using it
  4. Ski/board one at a time, watch others in your party and only stop in a known safe zone
  5. Don’t ski/board above others
  6. Start out on less steep slopes to assess snowpack stability
  7. Ski ridges or in the trees instead of gullies or bowls
  8. Avoid skiing/boarding potential avalanche trigger points like convex slopes and rocky outcrops
  9. Avoid heavy landings.