There are two tools to help you assess avalanche danger:
- New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) - based on the stability of snow and changes with the weather.
- Avalanche Terrain Exposure scale system (ATES) - based on terrain and does not change with the weather.
Anytime that snow and steep slopes are combined there is potential for an avalanche.
New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA)
The best way to understand the avalanche danger in Fiordland National Park is to check the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) for Craigieburn Range.The NZAA provides daily assessments of avalanche likelihood at different elevation bands and aspects, primaray and secondary dangers, along with recent avalanche activity, current snowpack conditions and mountain weather. The NZAA is also available at DOC visitor centres.
The NZAA is provided by the Mountain Safety Council (MSC) as an advisory only. We recommend you also check the Craigieburn Forest Park weather forecast.
Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES)
The Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) rates avalanche terrain based on the angle and shape of the ground or the number of established avalanche paths.
How ATES applies in Craigieburn Forest Park
Most of the area is simple avalanche terrain while seasonal snow is present. There are some areas of complex terrain which are popular walking and mountain biking tracks. Avalanche paths are not marked.
ATES ratings for Craigieburn Forest Park
You need to have the right level of experience to safely travel simple, challenging or complex terrain. To find out what experience is needed for each, check our avalanche safety level information.
- Craigieburn Edge Track up to the Luge/Edge track junction. Also known as Craigieburn Valley track
- The luge – also known as Lyndon saddle
- Cockayne alley to bushline
- Cass – Lagoon saddle track (Bealey Hut to Hamilton Hut)
- Craigieburn Edge Track – Luge/Edge track junction, also known as Craigieburn Valley track – to Skifield.
- Cass – Lagoon saddle track (Cass River SH73 road end to Hamilton Hut)
- Camp Saddle Track
- Cockayne alley above bushline
Avalanches are the most common during the winter and spring, from May through to November, but can happen for several months either side of that period if there are heavy snowfalls. Snow can fall at any time of the year in the higher parts of the park – therefore avalanches are also possible, but not common, at other times of the year on the glaciers and the steeper higher-altitude terrain in the park.
Be avalanche aware
If you are going into places avalanches could occur, make sure you:
- have checked the ATES class for where you want to go and the NZAA for the avalanche rating
- have the skills for the ATES class you are going into
- take an avalanche transceiver, a snow shovel and a probe. Know how to use these tools.