Avalanche in Hotham side country

If you are skiing or riding in Australia right now, stay out of the backcountry. Avalanche danger is high after the four day storm that dumped a metre of snow. One avalanche already reported in the Victorian side country in the Drift Cliffs at Hotham.

The team at The Mountain Sports Collective (formerly Snow Safety) have issued a high avalanche danger warning for Victoria. Check in with their site for avalanche and snow conditions before even considering crossing that ski resort boundary line in the Victorian Alps right now.

“This is a first for us to issue a high danger warning in Vic. All the trimmings are there. The one thing that we know is that the snow is ‘right side up’ for the most part. And the adhesion to the melt freeze crust is reasonable. So its really just a matter of letting this new snow to settle” advise the team.

If you think avalanches don’t happen in Australia, think again. Check out this slide in the Hotham Drift Cliffs area from @eli.v27 on Instagram.

A witness to the avalanche event at Hotham described the crown as being close to 2 meters and the avalanche path to be 50 meters wide to the valley floor.

pic by Karl Gray

Hotham released this statement:

Earlier this morning, an avalanche occurred in Mt Hotham’s backcountry. There were no injuries to mountain staff or guests.

This follows warnings from the Mt Hotham Ski Patrol team regarding the high risk of avalanches in the backcountry due to the large amount of snowfall, cold temperatures and strong winds that has occurred over the last few days.

Mt Hotham Ski Patrol perform avalanche control work daily and noted in their snow report today the danger of sizeable wind slab avalanches at higher elevations.

The conditions within the resort boundaries remain excellent, with the metre of fresh snow providing once in a decade skiing conditions. The inbound terrain is carefully managed by the Mt Hotham Ski Patrol and through the grooming operations of the Mt Hotham Skiing Company.

Bill Barker, the Director of Mt Hotham Ski Patrol, advises guests to ‘remain inbounds where the skiing is awesome, and wait for the snowpack to stabilize in the backcountry before venturing out there.’

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Victoria Emergency also offered this advice message for the Victorian Alps on their Facebook page yesterday.

Avalanches have occurred today.

Ski resorts have been conducting controlled avalanches today to reduce the risk of avalanches at resorts.

Warmer weather tomorrow will increase the risk of avalanches. Strong winds are also increasing the risk.

You should avoid activities such as skiing, snowboarding, or hiking in remote areas of the Alps as there is an increased risk of avalanches. The safest area for skiing and winter activities is within the patrolled resort areas.

What you should do:
– You should be aware of the risks of avalanches outside of patrolled resort areas.
– When driving you should stay on main roads. Observe road closures.
– Experienced skiers and snowboarders should be aware that avalanches in backcountry areas is highly likely on snow covered steep slopes.
– You can find information on fitting snow chains to your car here: www.snowsafe.org.au/chain-fitting/

Impacts in your area:
There are a number of roads closed in the area. Check the VicRoads website (traffic.vicroads.vic.gov.au/) for road closures or call 13 11 70.

All ski resorts remain open. You should check ski resort websites and talk to ski patrols about the latest conditions.
Your safety can not be guaranteed outside of the patrolled resort areas.

Read more: Avalanche courses in Australia in August

Read more: A tragedy of avalanche errors

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.


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