3 Aug 2009

Use back country at own risk, snow lovers warned

4:13 pm on 3 August 2009

The Queenstown ski field where a snowboarder was buried under an avalanche says it cannot stop people from venturing into back country ski areas.

Ryan Manu Campbell, 30, was pronounced dead at hospital in Queenstown on Sunday about an hour after he was dug from snow, west of the main ski field at Coronet Peak.

Ski area manager Hamish McCrostie says staff cannot stop people who choose to go outside the boundaries.

But he says when they do, they are responsible for the decisions they make and the outcomes of those decisions.

Mr McCrostie says anyone who goes into the back country should carry an avalanche transceiver, a shovel and a probe with them.

He says the price of $300 to $400 is not cheap, but is worth the investment.

Mountain council warned of dangers

The Mountain Safety Council says Mr Campbell's could have been avoided.

The council has been warning of high avalanche danger in back country for almost two weeks. It says weeks of fine weather have made the snow unstable.

The council urges people to be aware of the conditions and to check avalanche warnings before heading into back country areas to ski or snowboard.

Avalanche forecaster Chris Cochrane says the man and his companions had no safety or rescue equipment on them. Rescue services took almost two hours to find and free the trapped man.

Mr Cochrane told Morning Report that if the man had been wearing an avalanche transceiver he may have been freed in time to save his life.