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RISKS have arisen for people headed to the back country and alpine areas after a week of heavy snow fall in the Snowy Mountains, says NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service area manager Anthony Evans.
Mr Evans says snow often comes with high winds, which can create overhanging cornices, and because of recent storms there may be cornices in places not normally expected.
“Although far less common than in the northern hemisphere, avalanches do occur in Australia and the safest place to enjoy the snow is in the less exposed areas below the tree line or on resort grounds and established cross country trails,” he says.
“Cornice collapses and slab avalanches have been observed in the Snowy Mountains over the last week, and unless you have specific training and experience in avalanche conditions you should avoid steep slopes above the tree line.”
Mr Evans also recommends being prepared when heading out to the back country.
“Remember that conditions in alpine areas can be changeable and extreme, particularly over winter. Check weather forecasts and talk to NPWS visitor centre staff about local conditions so you can change plans accordingly,” he says.
“If you are heading out into the Park during snow season, travel in a group of at least three people and let others know your plans and tell them once you have returned safely.
“The right equipment is so important – bring a tent and sleeping bag specifically designed for the alpine conditions, a bivouac bag or space blanket for emergencies, layers of warm, waterproof clothing and plenty of food.
“Sun protection is important in the snow, even on overcast days. Maps and a GPS are also essential. Don’t rely on mobile phones as reception is poor in the mountains and batteries go flat very quickly in the cold.
“Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are strongly recommended by NPWS and are available from the NPWS visitor centres at Jindabyne, Perisher and Tumut. Loaned free of charge requiring only refundable deposit. Trip intention forms can also be lodged at one of the NPWS visitor centres or online.
“The NPWS and other authorities are involved in numerous search and rescue operations every year, many of which result from visitors underestimating the conditions and sometimes overestimating their own capabilities.
“If you are out in the back country and need help, call early. Delaying your call, particularly after nightfall, can seriously restrict rescue efforts.”
To read more about alpine safety go to nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/