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). 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 Arthur's Pass National Park weather forecast as part of your trip planning.
Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES)
The Avalance 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 Arthur's Pass National Park
Arthur's Pass National Park covers 119,000 hectares of mountainous terrain and avalanche conditions can vary throughout.
Tracks to summits and unforested valleys
The majority of the avalanche threat is on tracks that lead onto mountain summits, or into the deep unforested valleys that venture into the heart of the Southern Alps. Avalanche run-out zones in these valley floors are usually self-evident, with little vegetation and clearings in these zones.
These avalanches can run multiple times on the same path during the season, and are very fast moving, leaving little chance of avoidance. It is common to receive over 5–10 metres of snow in the high alpine parts of the park during the winter and spring months.
Along forested valleys
The majority of Arthur's Pass National Park tracks wander along forested valleys that do not hold permanent winter snow.
However, due to the surrounding steep-sided mountains and wet snow conditions, avalanches still have potential to reach valley floors in these areas in the rare big snow years, and are extremely destructive.
Some of these run-out zones have revegetated over time, and may not be obvious to those passing through them. Some huts and structures in the park are in these potential run-out zones.
ATES ratings in Arthurs Pass National Park
- Andrews Valley to Casey Hut
- Avalanche Peak (to bushline)
- Bealey bridge to Carrington Hut
- Bealey Lagoon block
- Bealey River Track
- Bealey Spur Track
- Binser Saddle Track
- Bridal Veil Track
- Casey Hut to Poulter Hut
- Cons Track
- Devils Punchbowl Track
- Hawdon Hut Track
- Mt Aicken Track
- Mt Bealey Track (to bushline)
- Poulter River Track
- Temple Basin Track
- Waimakariri riverbed
- Woolshed Hill Track
- Andrews Stream near Halleluiah Flat
- Crow Hut Valley Track to Waimakariri River
- Dobson Nature Walk and Otira Valley Link Track
- Edwards Hut Track
- Mingha Biv to Upper Deception Hut
- Mingha / Deception Route
- Otira Valley Track to bridge
- Poulter Hut to Lake Minchin
- Sudden Valley Biv (to biv only)
- All of Eastern Arthurs Pass National Park
- Avalanche Peak (above bushline)
- Avalanche Peak to Crow hut
- Carrington Hut to Waimakariri Falls Hut
- Carrington Hut to Barker Hut via river
- Carrington Hut to Brownings Pass
- Coral Track
- Edwards to Hawdon Hut via Tarn Col/Walker Pass
- Minchin Pass Route
- Otira Valley Track (beyond bridge)
- Sudden Valley Biv (beyond biv)
- Scotts Track (above bushline)