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SWITZERLAND: NEARLY 300 BIG AVALANCHES - Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Thursday May 9, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

A total of 299 destructive avalanches were recorded over the winter with 19 deaths, according to an end of season report


Switzerland's WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, SLF, released its figures to the end of April in its Winter Review published this week.

It counts a destructive avalanche as one which leads to loss of life, injury or damages property.

All but one of the 19 people killed were participating in winter sports in unsecured terrain, classified either as backcountry (16) or off-piste (2).

The exception was a ski patroller who died on an open ski run when a huge slide swept across a piste in Crans Montana in February, as we reported at the time:

The deadliest single incident was the avalanche near Fieschertal in the Bernese Alps at the end of April which killed four ski tourers:

The 20-year average for deaths over a six-month winter period is 21.

The report describes a cluster of six fatal accidents in the western part of the northern flank of the Alps as 'striking'.

Map of fatal avalanches in SwitzerlandMap showing fatal avalanches (image SLF)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map key:  red = avalanche risk 4, orange = risk 3, yellow = risk 2

"These incidents have been attributed to a snowpack that remained unfavourably bonded for a prolonged period, which is a rather unusual occurrence in this region," it states.

"Those engaging in snow and mountain sports should give heed to the avalanche danger in the spring and summertime as well.

"For the time being, the SLF avalanche bulletin will continue to appear daily at 5 pm. In the summer and autumn it is published as necessary."

The avalanche bulletins can be found here.

The figures show there were 131 avalanches in which a total of 209 people were caught:

Swiss avalanches in which at least one person was caughtMap of all avalanches in which at least one person was caught (image SLF)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Winter Review recalls the record-breaking ‘exceptional snowfall' in the northern Swiss Alps in the first half of January.

"From 12 to 14 January 2019, more than 1 metre of snow fell over a wide area on the northern flank of the Alps, and more than 1.5 m from the Urn Alps to the St. Gallen Alps and in northern Prättigau.

"In the east in particular, January's precipitation broke previous records.

"Many stations in Liechtenstein and the northern Grisons measured the second largest or largest ever aggregate snowfall within a ten-day period."

The vast quantities of fresh snow, along with storm-force winds, resulted in a very high avalanche danger (level 5) - the highest on the scale - in large parts of the Swiss Alps on 14th January.

There were numerous avalanches during this period but the only damage reported was to property.

Avalanche in SwitzerlandAvalanche in Switzerland, winter 2018-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Institute has a database containing full records of avalanche events in Switzerland, including details of all fatal avalanches going back to the winter of 1936-37.

This means it is able to analyse long-term trends and assess the effectiveness of prevention measures.

It claims that its database on destructive avalanches is without parallel worldwide and now contains 15,000 records.

Read the full Winter Review.

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