We have snow! Time to get out in the mountains.
A big part of having a successful trip (and not having to rely on the emergency Spam and VB in the hut) is to research the weather and conditions.
In recent years there has been a growing awareness that we do have areas in the Australian high country that experience avalanches. But the greatest killer in the backcountry remains bad weather and poor planning.
If you’re planning to do a trip, especially above tree line, then it’s worth doing the research that will allow you to make the most informed decisions when you’re out there.
First port of call for general conditions is the Bureau of Meteorology. The BOM site has a rain/ precipitation radar, seven day forecasts for towns (most resorts have their own forecast), a specific section for the Alps and more detailed forecasts if you want to drill into the conditions. This will give you an overall sense of wind speeds and directions, and likely snow or rainfall.
Weatherzone has a ‘snow’ section on its website with forecasts (in the top menu).
MountainWatch also has daily snow and weather updates.
But ‘from the field’ observations about actual conditions (crucially, including visibility) needs to come from other sources. If there is a good outdoors shop en route to the mountains, that’s’ normally worth a visit if you’re a bit uncertain for some local info.
Almost all ski resorts will have daily reports and snow cams, so check out the snow report and images for the ones closest to your planned trip. Really useful for getting a sense of what the visibility is like.
The backcountry forum remains a great place to ask about local conditions. Just start a new topic asking ‘has someone been to area X in the last few days’ and see what comes up.
And then there are some mountain specific websites that will help with a range of info:
Wilderness Sports, who are based in Jindabyne and also run a store in Perisher during winter, provide a daily report about conditions in the Snowy Mountains. Having people on the mountain helps them to provide first hand knowledge of the conditions.
Their reports are also curated on the Perisher website and also incorporated into the Perisher XC Reports.
Then there is Mountain Sports Collective (previously SnowSafety) which is especially useful for people who are interested in steeper backcountry terrain. This operates like one of the overseas avalanche forecast sites, with reports for specific regions of the Alps.
Stay safe, and have an awesome time out there.