Predicted snowfalls risky for back country skiers

Significant snowfalls forecast this weekend will have skiers keen for first tracks in the powder as well as a big snow build-up across the NSW snow country.

Kosciuszko National Park winter landscape

With snow down to 600 m and snowfalls of 50-100cm forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has issued a warning to skiers and snowboarders to take precautions before heading out to enjoy the deep snow.

NPWS Area Manager Anthony Evans said: "While it's exciting to take advantage of these snow conditions, it's important to be careful and take safety precautions when visiting Kosciuszko National Park, particularly at the moment after such heavy snowfalls."

"We recommend that people don't venture beyond the resorts and delay trips to remote areas until the storm passes to avoid getting lost.

Hypothermia is a significant risk when the weather is extreme and once the storm has passed, risks such as avalanche and cornice collapse remain, particularly on steeper slopes in exposed areas such as the Main Range around Mt Kosciuszko.

"Snow often comes with high winds which can create unexpected overhanging cornices on ridgetops or along the crest of a mountain. Likewise, steep gullies provide the perfect scenario for the new snow to slide, particularly if it is sitting on an icy layer beneath.

Cornice collapses and slab avalanches have been seen in the Snowies already this year, which brings great risk unless you have specific training and experience in avalanche conditions before going onto steep slopes above the tree line."

Mr Evans also recommended being prepared for back country travel by checking conditions in alpine areas, particularly over winter, checking weather forecasts, talking to NPWS visitor centre staff about local conditions so plans can be changed accordingly, as well as carrying a PLB. In-experienced skiers should consider a guided tour.

"We want visitors to enjoy the back country but to make sure they are prepared. Safety is your responsibility, so with consideration of the NPWS alpine safety advice you will enjoy a safe visit to the Australian Alps," he said.

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