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Mount Hotham Resort says avalanche warning shouldn't scare skiers off 'once-in-a-decade' conditions

By Elias Clure, Wednesday August 9, 2017 - 07:24 EST

A popular Victorian ski resort says it is confident conditions on its mountain are safe despite an avalanche warning for the Victorian Alpine region that is expected to remain in place for a number of days.

Mount Hotham staff confirmed an avalanche occurred in the mountain's backcountry on Tuesday morning at 11:30am but there were no injuries reported.

Emergency Management Victoria said an avalanche warning is still in place for the state's most popular skiing locations, including Mount Hotham, Mount Bulla and Falls Creek.

Paul Hargraves, the inspector of Emergency Management in the Hume region, said skiing in areas that were not checked by ski patrols would be extremely dangerous.

"The [back country] areas that are not patrolled are the areas where the risks are increased and where the avalanches have occurred," he said.

"These areas can't be checked but people should rest assured the place where people are staffed, skiing is safe," Mr Hargraves said.

"The message is don't venture into those areas where the risk has increased significantly and will be present for a number of days."

The heavy snowfall in the alpine region caused the avalanches, and Mr Hargraves said being caught in one could be catastrophic.

"These avalanches move at incredible force, most definitely people could die. In 2014 two people died on the Mt Bogong high plains in an avalanche," he said.

"They are some of the risks we face and no-one wants to experience that tragic loss of life.

"That's why we're saying to take extra care, we understand there are people that like extreme sports but if you don't know the risks you should not be in these dangerous areas and our advice is to avoid them."

A statement from Mount Hotham Resort said its "ski patrol perform avalanche control work daily and noted the danger of sizeable wind slab avalanches at higher elevations".

But resort managers reassured skiers that conditions within the resort boundaries remained excellent and that metre of fresh snow was providing once-in-a-decade skiing conditions.

"The inbound terrain is carefully managed by the Mt Hotham Ski Patrol and through the grooming operations of the Mt Hotham Skiing," the resort said in a statement.

The Mount Hotham Ski Patrol are also advising guests to remain on staffed ski runs and avoid the unmanned backcountry.

"In the resort boundaries, it is amazing — I couldn't stress that enough, we've had the best snowfall in a long time," resort spokesman Karl Gray said.

"Because we've had so much snow in a short space of time there is potential for avalanches, which is the same anywhere in the world. It's just that it's unusual in Australia.

"It was a sizeable avalanche, a lot of energy got released so people need to be careful and considerate but our ski patrol team is very experienced and we just want to make sure people come down and have fun."


© ABC 2017

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