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Alpine safety

Alpine areas present special safety issues, particularly in winter. It’s important to be careful, knowledgeable and take the following safety precautions when visiting these areas.

Read more about Alpine safety

Police and NSW National Parks staff are involved in numerous search and rescue operations in Kosciuszko National Park every year. Many of these result from visitors underestimating the conditions and sometimes overestimating their own capabilities. Safety is your responsibility, so with preparation, and consideration of the following advice, you’ll have an enjoyable and safe journey to the Australian Alps.

Plan your trip

  • Travel with at least 3 people in your group – if there's an emergency one of you can can go for help, while the other stays with the injured or ill person. At least 1 person in your group should be experienced and able to guide and help others.
  • Telling your friends and family, also known as letting people know your trip intentions, is crucial when heading into the Australian alpine environment. 
  • Give details about your planned trip to close relatives, friends or the NSW Police. You can do this by filling in a trip intention form. Tell friends and family when you're back safely, or if you're extending your stay.
  • Check Australian Alps weather forecasts and talk to NPWS visitor centre staff about local park conditions so you can change your plans accordingly. Conditions in alpine areas can be changeable and extreme, particularly over winter.
  • If you need help, call early. Delaying your call, particularly after nightfall, can seriously restrict rescue efforts.

Be prepared

  • Have equipment (tent and sleeping bag) that are suitable for the conditions and take a bivouac bag or space blanket for emergencies.
  • Wear layers of warm, waterproof clothing and take plenty of food as it provides heat in the body.
  • Protect your skin from sunburn by using sunscreen and wearing sunglasses, protective clothing and a hat. UV is high and new snow reflects a lot of sunlight, even on overcast days.

Avalanches

Avalanches (including cornice collapse) can occur at any time in Kosciuszko National Park during the winter months. They can be fatal. While they are not as common as North America or Europe, people have died in Australia from avalanches.

Knowing when an avalanche will occur is very complex because they occur from snow accumulation patterns plus weather conditions. A layer of fresh snow on top of an icy layer can increase avalanche risk significantly. However, rapidly melting snow can also increase snow instability. Temperature and wind affect the likelihood of an avalanche.

Unless you have avalanche experience or training you should avoid steeper areas where there are no trees. Steep, narrow gullies as well as cornices on the tops of ridges, formed by snow accumulation in windy weather, also pose significant risks. Consider a guide if you are inexperienced.

Winter snow and snow gums in Kosciuszko National Park. Photo: John Spencer