Mount Hutt – No Change To Off Piste Policy After Deaths – Avalanche Update

(scroll to bottom of page for update)

Despite the two recent deaths and the call for the wearing of helmets to be made compulsory (see our blog yesterday) the manager of  the Mount Hutt skiifield has said there will be no changes to the off piste policy on Mount Hutt.

Skiiers are basically out there on their own if they stray off piste but one has to wonder what precautions are being taken to protect the more naive and less proficient skiiers who may not be aware of the risks they are taking.

The Herald today carries a report saying

“…Mt Hutt Ski Area manager Dave Wilson said today that it would not stop skiing out of bounds but reiterated advice that skiers should assess conditions and their own ability before skiing off trail. “We try and encourage people if they are going to go out in the back country to check in with the ski patrol,” Mr Wilson said. The out of bounds area was too big to patrol and it was up to the individual to look after their own safety.

Mr Wilson said the two deaths this season was unheard of and ski-field staff had found it hard to deal with. “I’ve been here for 10 years and having one [death] is unusual,” he said. Before this season the last death at the ski-field was in 2005 when an Australian man, Harry Brian Wylie, fell to his death while skiing off the main trails.

Responding to calls to make helmets mandatory for all skiers, Mr Wilson said it was definitely an option but there needed to be a lot of discussion and research before a decision was made. The woman who died yesterday was wearing a helmet but the American woman was not, he said. It was impossible to tell if a helmet would have saved her life, Mr Wilson said.

Yesterday’s death was being investigated by the ski-field staff in conjunction with police, he said  The woman’s daughter had been spoken to but the family would be given time to mourn before she was interviewed again as part of investigations, Mr Wilson said. Her name would be released once relatives had been informed.”

As far as we know the Dept of Labour hasn’t investigated this latest incident.

A while ago the Coroner urged that Coronet Peak enhance its avalanche hazard signage and fencing in the upper Greengates area. The Coroner’s recommendation followed the death of Queenstown snowboarder, Ryan Manu Campbell,  in an avalanche outside the ski area boundary almost a year ago.

In September of last year Stan Siejka, a highly regarded neurologist from the Australian state of Tasmania died from his injuries after a fall at the Porters Ski area. His death
came as a major blow to medical services in his home state where he almost singlehandedly provided the neurology services. He was a highly regarded professional and his loss was keenly felt by his colleagues, patients, family and friends.

An experienced heli-skiing guide with Alpine Guides was killed in an avalanche in Methven on 14August. Almost a month earlier on 24 July an Australian tourist, Llynden Riethmuller, died in an avalanche whilst skiing with the same company, in the same area.

Rosemary Berry, a semi retired Australian tourist broke an arm and shoulder whilst skiing and sustained other injuries after she fell over an metal track left in the snow at the Cardrona Ski Resort. The company subsequently tried to appeal against its conviction of fines and costs totalling almost $60,000.

According to information released as part of the Dept of Labour’s investigation into adventure tourism the highest activity area for serious harm accident notifications in New Zealand  is ski fields, followed by luge, horse trekking and ATV tour accidents link.

The final report has yet to be released to the public.

Related story

An Australian national has been killed and his colleague seriously injured after their car rolled on black ice near Taylorville, about 10 kilometres from Greymouth, at 6am. The men had only been in the country for a matter of hours on their first day of contracting for River Coal. (See Police name Australian for an update)

Icy roads played a role in other South Island car crashes yesterday. In North Canterbury, a woman was airlifted to hospital after a car skidded off the road in Scargill yesterday morning. Amberley Senior Constable Arnold Hooykaas said the icy road was a factor in the crash. “The ice truck was out on the road, but it had run out of grit,” he said. “She came around the last iced bend and slid off the road.”

Icy roads were also believed to be responsible for a crash on the Old West Coast Rd near Darfield yesterday. A van flipped in the accident, but no-one was injured.”

Avalanche Update 10 August 2010

An avalanche on Mount Hutt hit “two or three” skiiers on the mountain today.  Almost 2000 people had been out on the mountain enjoying the snow at the time. Today’s avalanche risk was assessed as considerable by the Mountain Safety Council of New Zealand’s avalanche.net website. ‘Considerable’ being the mid point of five stages, ranging from low to extreme.

The SMH also spoke of another fatality on the mountain on 6 August, that of Nello Donaggio, aged 30, who died after a he slid approximately 100 metres, sustaining multiple fractures and a major head injury. His funeral was on 11 August.

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