During FMC’s Outdoor Community campaign support to Ski Touring, we noticed some friction between members of the back country touring community and some ski area operators.  The friction appeared to be primary due to a lack of understanding of the nature of hazards present, as well as about how the legal obligations of the ski area operators relate to the legal rights of access to public conservation land.

To try to alleviate some of the friction, as well as let the fields know FMC is watching, we’ve consulted with every ski area in New Zealand to create a set of back country touring access guidelines.  These guidelines articulate how to behave when accessing back country terrain using ski field infrastructure, and are intended to promote understanding of the real hazards present on ski areas, as well as foster courtesy and respect between tourers (as well as climbers and trampers) and ski area operators.

These guidelines were published in April 2019 by the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, with support from the New Zealand Alpine Club. The guideline received feedback and support from 23 Ski Areas throughout Aotearoa. FMC thanks the NZAC and the 23 ski areas who provided support and feedback for this project.


Backcountry Touring Access Guidelines

How to behave when accessing the backcountry using ski field infrastructure


Talk to Ski Patrol

It’s in everyone’s best interest to have open communication.

  • Find out about snow and avalanche conditions and current ski field operations.
  • If requested, leave your intentions and ensure you sign back in.

Respect the Field

Everyone wants to have a good day out on the hill, a little respect goes a long way.

  • Each mountain is different; always check out the field’s website for advice and the latest updates before you leave home.
  • Skin or hike where you are not a hazard to others on the field.
  • Respect closed areas; they are closed for good reasons.
  • Follow the field’s advice about when and where to travel through the field, so that you are not exposed to dangerous ski field operations like avalanche bombing, de-icing, helicopters, snowmobile routes, winch groomers and cables, which can all kill.
  • Find out the ski area’s policy on leaving your vehicle there outside of operational hours.
  • Do not interfere with field operations or be a nuisance.
  • Respect the ski areas’ generosity if they allow one-ride tickets.

Respect the Backcountry

One step beyond the field boundary is the backcountry!

  • Plan and prepare for your trip.
  • Research private property boundaries (www.WAMS.org.nz); get permission before you go.
  • Take an avalanche awareness course or consider hiring a guide.
  • Check the avalanche advisory. (www.avalanche.net.nz)
  • Always take shovel, beacon and probe, and ensure you know how to use them.
  • Consider taking an emergency communication device, such as a personal locator beacon.
  • Make room between people and other groups when travelling.
  • Always tell a responsible person your trip plan, when you intend to return and when they should notify emergency services.
  • Check in with that responsible person when you are safely off the mountain.
  • Never travel alone in the backcountry.

These guidelines and supporting articles have been published in FMC’s June 2019 issue of Backcountry, the winter issue of NZAC’s Climber magazine, along with articles on the project scheduled for Wilderness Magazine. The guideline is also available on www.skitouring.co.nz.

FMC encourages you to read and share the guidelines above, which can also be found on our website. Please get in touch with us if there are access issues that may need our attention.