New Zealand Mountan Safety Council

Online Course - Safe Travel Techniques

Safe Travel Techniques -Terrain Tactics

How you travel in the backcountry, and which terrain you choose, can greatly affect your safety in avalanche terrain. The following tips are standard minimum precautions that should be used at all times.


Always travel one at a time or with enough spacing so that only one person is exposed to an avalanche path at any one time. This applies to going up and down. The combined weight of people travelling together may be enough to overcome the snowpack strength and start an avalanche.

Watch the video below and see how their combined weight is enough to trigger the weak layer and cause a slab avalanche. Aside from the crew in the helicopter filming them, who is left to begin the rescue?

Visual contact

Always watch each other from safe spots. Should the worst happen and a slope does avalanche, give your buddies the best chance of rescue by watching them across suspect slopes

Islands of safety

Only stop in safe zones, never in or below an avalanche path. Always spend the least amount of time in the direct ‘line of fire’ of a potential avalanche. Never stop or take a break in an avalanche path.

Watch the video below. Note the person who must scramble to avoid being buried in the runout zone.

Safe travel routes

Use low angled terrain and ridges. Avoid exposure to terrain traps where possible. Never travel directly above or below a partner/group.



Get together at safe spots and discuss decisions with each other. Many accidents have occurred when the person out in front has assumed everybody knew the plan. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute their observations, voice their concerns, and agree on the travel plan.





Avalanche Forecast Regions:
Mountain Safety Council managed websites
Mountainf Safety Council websiteAdventure Smart websiteNew Zealand Avalanche Center

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