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. Cold, wet and windy conditions are a dangerous combination in alpine areas. Be aware of the causes, symptoms and treatment of hypothermia.
Parks Victoria recommends visitors are well informed about current and forecast weather, snowpack and avalanche hazards and have skill in navigation equipment in alpine areas. 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).
Outdoors Victoria, the peak body for all outdoors activities in the state, and Parks Victoria recognise the Mountain Sports Collective (MSC) website as a reliable source of information and reporting of backcountry conditions. Victorian Alpine Resort Management Boards periodically provide information regarding avalanche risk in resort managed areas. MSC use such information in addition to the regular reports from qualified backcountry enthusiasts, to report on backcountry conditions outside resorts.
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:
- 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)
- Have a plan
- Carry avalanche equipment (shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver beacon) and practice using it
- Ski/board one at a time, watch others in your party and only stop in a known safe zone
- Don’t ski/board above others
- Start out on less steep slopes to assess snowpack stability
- Ski ridges or in the trees instead of gullies or bowls
- Avoid skiing/boarding potential avalanche trigger points like convex slopes and rocky outcrops
- Avoid heavy landings.
The Chief Health Officer’s (CHO) directives apply to backcountry areas. Visitors are reminded to:
- Observe physical distancing at all times.
- Not gather in groups greater than allowed by the Chief Health Officer.
- Check that the park is open before travelling.
- Bring your own hand sanitiser and masks.
- Note that if a carpark is full, no more people can visit that site. Do not join vehicle queues or park illegally.
- Be self-sufficient with extra warm clothing, spare dry clothing, food, water and personal hygiene products.
This is particularly important when visiting refuge huts. These huts are relatively confined spaces where the virus may persist in the air and on surfaces.
Victoria’s desert parks
- Plan your walks for the cool season. Summer day time temperatures in Victoria’s desert country are far too high for safe or comfortable walking
- Before heading off for a multi-day walk, ensure you inform the nearest Parks Victoria office
- Be self-sufficient with drinking water. Carry plenty in or know how to make untreated water safe for drinking.
- Victoria’s desert parks have very few tracks or roads. Skills in using a topographic map and compass are essential.