27 Jul 2009

Snowboarders foolish, says avalanche forecaster

4:56 pm on 27 July 2009

A veteran avalanche forecaster has described as foolish the actions of five men who were nearly killed in an avalanche on Saturday.

Chris Cochraine, an avalanche forecaster for the Mountain Safety Council in Queenstown, says the men were not prepared and were not carrying locator transponders or shovels.

The men were snowboarding above Lake Alta, just outside the Remarkables ski field boundary, when one of them triggered the avalanche, sending more than 1,000 tonnes of snow cascading down the mountain. Some chunks were as big as houses.

Mr Cochraine says the men are lucky to be alive, and that their actions were foolish when clear warnings had been given about avoiding steep terrain.

He says the avalanche risk in the region is the worst he has seen in 25 years.

Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence says the people involved in Saturday's avalanche know they are lucky to be alive. Mr Lawrence says so much snow came down that it broke through a one-metre ice crust on Lake Alta.

The avalanches are being triggered by humans rather than coming down naturally, he says. However, the snow should have stabilised within a week.

The Mountain Safety Council is warning all skiers in the back country to be on high alert for avalanches.

A Sydney man was killed in an avalanche near Methven on Friday.