The Outdoor Safety Code provides important advice to follow when going into the mountains in New Zealand:
1Plan your trip
Seek local knowledge and plan the route you will take and the amount of time you can reasonably expect it to take.
- Whether you're heading out for a quick jog or a multi-day tramp, it is always important to know your journey and be appropriately prepared for it. Not all tracks are sign posted in New Zealand, and different markers and junctions can be confusing. Cellphone coverage is often unavailable, meaning GPS and mapping may also not work. If the conditions change, you may need to know an alternate route.
Expand for key journey-planning tips:
Tell someone your plans and leave a date for when to raise the alarm if you haven’t returned.
Complete the Outdoor Intentions Form and email it to your trusted contact before you head out onto trail, even if you're only heading out for short trip. Alternatively, sending a text message or phone call that answers the questions within the intentions form will go a long way if you get injured or lost, as this means that your trusted contact can raise the alarm if you or your group don't get in touch to say you've returned when expected. The Outdoor Intentions form has been design specifically to address key information needed by Search and Rescue.
3Be aware of the weather
New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Check the forecast and expect weather changes.
The weather forecasts for mountains, snow, marine and coastline are all different from the ‘typical’ weather forecast you may find online or on your smart phone. Even if you don’t intend to be out for long, you need to check the weather for the area that you are going into, because conditions can be drastically different and changeable between marine, coastal and mountain areas compared to central or urban areas.
Advice for checking the weather:
4Know your limits
Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience.
There are many recreational activities in New Zealand that are high-energy, but even the more relaxed activities still require you to understand your limits - your general health, fitness levels and your ability to undertake the activity in the potentially 'worst' conditions, are all factors.
When considering your limits, think about:
5Take sufficient supplies
Make sure you have enough food, equipment, clothing and emergency rations for the worst-case scenario. Take an appropriate means of communication.
Making sure you have the essentials when you travel into the outdoors is an important part of good preparation. Be sensible with what you need to bring based on the length of time you are going, the weather conditions, the type of track you are going onto, how you are feeling, and consider what else you may need if you take a wrong turn or get injured. Appropriate footwear, communications devices, telling someone, planning your trip/knowing your route, and even ensuring you have core essentials like water supplies, are all important considerations. Find out more in the day walk/hiking section or the multi-day tramping sections featured within the Tramping/Walking/Hiking section of this site.
Mountaineering is hiking in snow conditions. Due to the inherent risks of this sport, it is extremely important to only undertake this activity if you have a significant level of knowledge and experience. It is also recommended that you only undertake this activity with an experienced guide. More information about this sport can be found on the Mountain Safety Council's website.
Key Contacts for Mountaineering:
- New Zealand Avalanche Advisory - Avalanche activity and training information.
- Mountain Safety Council - provides significant resources relating to land-based activities around New Zealand as well as practical courses, training information and preparation videos.
- Department of Conservation - managing the conservation of New Zealand's nature, including information about tracks, wildlife management and hut management.
Skiing and Snowboarding
There are wonderful locations to ski and snowboard in New Zealand. While large ski fields are operated commercially, this does not mean that the commercial operators are responsible for your safety. You must behave responsibly, dress appropriately and ensure that you are mindful of the safety of loved ones and others. Always take a form of waterproof communication with you, and make sure that you 'mention your intentions' to others on the mountain, especially if there is a time when you intend to ski or snowboard alone.
Trails are unfenced, and while you can follow specific routes it is easy to go off-trail - which you should never do unless you have experience in the area and you know where you are going. A safer option for going off-piste or to enjoying backcoutry snow sports is to hire an experienced guide as well as a a personal locator beacon (PLB). Find out more in the link (left).
Top tips for skiing and snowboarding:
- Know your limits: recreate to your ability, control your speed, if you're tired, take a rest.
- Be aware: be mindful of changing conditions, take a lesson, stop where you can be seen, give others room, look ahead.
- Protect yourself: wear a helmet, obey all signs and closures, go somewhere safe if the conditions are deteriorating.
Key contacts for skiing and snowboarding