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)
There is no avalanche advisory for the St James Conservation Area.
We recommend you check the mountain weather forecast as part of your trip planning.
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 St James Conservation Area
The majority of the area is challenging avalanche terrain while seasonal snow is present. There are some significant areas of complex terrain.
St James Walkway
Parts of the St James Walkway are complex avalanche terrain. All avalanche paths on the walkway are marked.
You should not stop in the marked places. Avalanches are most likely to happen during periods of heavy rain or snow, and for 24 hours after the end of a storm. Special care
should be taken if crossing old avalanche debris. Do not stop to play in the snow.
There are two small avalanche paths that cross the Maling Pass 4WD road on the west side of the pass. If there is more than one metre of snow on the road they may pose
All other avalanche paths in the St James Conservation Area are unmarked.
ATES ratings in St James Conservation Area
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 page.
- St James Walkway Christopher Hut to Boyle road end
- Waiau valley floor up to Caroline Biv
- Maling Pass to Lake Guyon via the cycle trail
- Stanley River Route
- Edwards valley track and Peters valley
- St James Walkway - Christopher Hut to Ada Pass
- Fowlers Pass Track
- St James Range south of Maling Pass
- Libretto Range
- Opera Range
- St James Walkway - Lewis Pass to Ada Pass
- Waiau valley above Caroline Biv
- St James Range north of Maling Pass
- Crimea Range
- Spenser Mountains
The avalanche season can extend from May into November. Most avalanches occur during winter storms, or in spring/early summer when warmer temperatures or rain make the snow unstable. Even if you cannot see snow from the track there may be enough snow in upper slopes to form an avalanche that could reach the track.
Avalanches can also occur outside of these times on some of the higher mountains in the area. During winter and spring, avalanches can reach a number of tracks and roads.
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.