Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

Due to dangerous conditions, avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland plus the Weekly Report from the Institute of Snow and Avalanche

News from Swissinfo.ch

Two men, one of 56 years old and one of 31 have died in hospital after being buried in separate avalanches this week. Authorities have placed several areas in high avalanche risk after adverse weather conditions of late.

A skier was trapped by a slab of falling snow in the popular Flumserberg ski area in eastern Switzerland on Thursday 3rd January afternoon. A companion alerted the authorities, sparking a search by police, the fire brigade, alpine rescuers aided by dogs and helicopters.

Avalanche - Naters Belalp. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Avalanche – Naters Belalp. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

The man was found and transported to hospital. But it was announced on Friday that he never recovered from his injuries.

On a second episode, also on Thursday 3rd, a snowboarded was carried away by an avalanche in Davos, in the Graübunden canton in southeast Switzerland. He was dug out by his companions but died from his injuries on Friday.

A second avalanche in the same region on Thursday left another snowboarder with a broken thigh.

Both regions sit in an area stretching from central to southeast Switzerland that is rated as being at the greatest danger of avalanches.

Storms that brought heavy snow and rainfall just before Christmas led the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research  to raise avalanche warnings significantly over large swathes of Switzerland.

The risk of avalanches has subsequently fallen, the institute says, but remains at “considerable” levels in some areas. Skiers have been warned not to stray off-piste for fear of triggering avalanches. 

More info: swissinfo.ch

Weekly Report 04. – 10. January 2019 from the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research

Lots of fresh snow in the north and in the east, at times big avalanche danger –

In cold temperatures, snow first fell to low altitudes in the east and later in the north. From Saturday to Thursday, fresh snow sums of 100 to 150 cm were registered on the central and eastern slopes of the northern Alps and in northern Grisons. The fresh snow and strong to stormy winds from northern directions led to a critical avalanche situation. In addition to a number of avalanche triggered by individuals, several large avalanches were reported. The avalanche situation was less tense in the west and south. The danger did not increase until the end of the week’s reporting period in the west.

Weather, snow cover, avalanches

Friday, 04.01. until Sunday, 06.01 .: Heavy snowfall in the east

It was temporarily dry on Friday. It was partly cloudy in the east, mostly sunny in the west and south. The midday temperatures at 2000 m were at a low of -10 ° C in the east, at -5 ° C in the remaining areas. The occasionally stormy north wind was able to transport snow, especially in the snow-covered areas on the central and eastern slopes of the northern Alps and in northern Grisons (see Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Lots of snow in the air! View from Klewenalp to Brisen (2403 m, Isenthal, UR). Even after several days with strong to stormy north wind snow could still be transported in the areas with fresh snow (Photo: M. Müller, 04.01.2019).
Fig. 1: Lots of snow in the air! View from Klewenalp to Brisen (2403 m, Isenthal, UR). Even after several days with strong to stormy north wind snow could still be transported in the areas with fresh snow (Photo: M. Müller, 04.01.2019).

This resulted in small to medium snowdrift accumulations. However, the various new and shoot snow stories of the past days, which were the most powerful in the same areas, were still susceptible to interference (see Figure 2).

Fig. 2: Remote triggered slab avalanche on the northwest slope of the canine (2212 m, Sisikon, UR). The avalanche was triggered by touring people. Fortunately, these were still outside the sliding snow masses, as they released the slab. So they were not carried away (Photo: P. Fähndrich, 04.01.2019). SLF.ch. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig. 2: Remote triggered slab avalanche on the northwest slope of the canine (2212 m, Sisikon, UR). The avalanche was triggered by touring people. Fortunately, these were still outside the sliding snow masses, as they released the slab. So they were not carried away (Photo: P. Fähndrich, 04.01.2019). SLF.ch. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

In the remaining areas, the newer snowdrift accumulations were thinner and more compact, but in places no less prone to failure (see Figure 3).

Fig 3: Recently departed slab avalanche from the fresh drift snow in the Avers (GR). The avalanche was observed on the eastern slope of the Tscheischhorn (Avers, GR) at around 2500 m. It was not known how the avalanche was triggered (Photo: N. Huwyler, 04.01.2019).SLF.ch. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig 3: Recently departed slab avalanche from the fresh drift snow in the Avers (GR). The avalanche was observed on the eastern slope of the Tscheischhorn (Avers, GR) at around 2500 m. It was not known how the avalanche was triggered (Photo: N. Huwyler, 04.01.2019).SLF.ch. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

In the south, the situation was very different. There was hardly any snow at the Cima della Trosa (1861 m, Mergoscia, TI). There was hardly any risk of avalanche (see Figure 4).

Fig. 4: View from the Bassa di Cardada on the snow-free southeast slope of the Cima della Trosa (1861 m, Mergoscia, TI). Apart from a few snowy remnants in central and southern Ticino there was hardly any snow at this altitude (photo: M. Steiger, 04.01.2019). SLF.ch. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig. 4: View from the Bassa di Cardada on the snow-free southeast slope of the Cima della Trosa (1861 m, Mergoscia, TI). Apart from a few snowy remnants in central and southern Ticino there was hardly any snow at this altitude (photo: M. Steiger, 04.01.2019). SLF.ch. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

From Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon, it once again snowed considerably to low altitudes (see Figure 5).

Fig. 5: Two-day new snow sum from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon, measured by the manual measuring fields and calculated at the automatic stations of the SLF. From Liechtenstein over the Prättigau and the Silvretta to the Samnaun fell with 50 to 70 cm the most snow. The rainfall decreased significantly to the west and south. There was hardly any snow in southern Valais and Ticino. SLF.ch. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig. 5: Two-day new snow sum from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon, measured by the manual measuring fields and calculated at the automatic stations of the SLF. From Liechtenstein over the Prättigau and the Silvretta to the Samnaun fell with 50 to 70 cm the most snow. The rainfall decreased significantly to the west and south. There was hardly any snow in southern Valais and Ticino. SLF.ch. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

On the northern Alpine ridge, on the main ridge of the Alps and generally in Grisons, a stormy north wind continued to blow. The avalanche danger was widely used in the main precipitation areas as “gross” (level 4) (see also danger development at the bottom).

After this snowfall, some avalanches below the tree line were also observed in the main precipitation areas (see Figure 6).

Fig. 6: Slab avalanche on a forest clearing at around 1540 m. The avalanche was observed at the Ronämeder (Davos, GR) on a northwest slope. The type of triggering is unknown (Photo: H. Gutschmidt, 06.01.2019). SLF photo. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig. 6: Slab avalanche on a forest clearing at around 1540 m. The avalanche was observed at the Ronämeder (Davos, GR) on a northwest slope. The type of triggering is unknown (Photo: H. Gutschmidt, 06.01.2019). SLF photo. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

The triggering of these avalanches was probably the result of an inundated surface ripening which was preserved in the wind-protected forest areas and was snowed in. Such a surface ripeness could also be found in snow profiles in the Davos area (see Figure 7).

Fig. 7: Graphic of a snow profile near the slab avalanche shown above. Shown is gray hatched the hand hardness. At a height of 30 cm, there is a snow-covered surface. In this weak layer, a crack was provoked during the snow cover stability test, which also partially expanded. SLF. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig. 7: Graphic of a snow profile near the slab avalanche shown above. Shown is gray hatched the hand hardness. At a height of 30 cm, there is a snow-covered surface. In this weak layer, a crack was provoked during the snow cover stability test, which also partially expanded. SLF. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

Monday, 07.01 .: pretty sunny

It was mostly sunny in the Valais and on the southern slope of the Alps, and quite sunny in the west. In the east, it cleared up in the mountains during the day. Temporarily the wind slowed and blew weakly or moderately from the north. The midday temperatures at 2000 m were around the freezing point to the west and south, to -6 ° C to the east. The beautiful weather attracted many people in the powder snow. Some avalanches were also triggered (see avalanche accidents below). But avalanches of the last days could be observed (see picture above, picture 1).

Tuesday, 08.01. until Thursday, 10.01 .: North stagnation with lots of fresh snow on the northern slope of the Alps

During the night on Tuesday snow fell again from the north, which lasted until Thursday in the northeast. The snowfall limit was temporarily at 1000 m. On Wednesday and Thursday it snowed again in the lowlands, where on Thursday during the day in the mountains only little snow fell. From Tuesday to Thursday, significant amounts of new snow were brought together again (see Figure 8). The strong and at times stormy northwest wind transported the fresh snow at high altitude.

Fig. 8: Three-day total snowfall from the night of Tuesday to Thursday morning, measured by the manual measuring fields and calculated at the automatic stations of the SLF. On the northern slope of the Alps from the Bernese Oberland to Liechtenstein and in Prättigau fell 50 to 80 cm of snow. At the remaining northern ridge, in the remaining parts of Nordbünden, in the Silvretta and in the Samnaun it was 30 to 50 cm, in the other areas less. From the Simplon area over the middle and southern Ticino to Bergell and Puschlav hardly snow fell. SLF. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig. 8: Three-day total snowfall from the night of Tuesday to Thursday morning, measured by the manual measuring fields and calculated at the automatic stations of the SLF. On the northern slope of the Alps from the Bernese Oberland to Liechtenstein and in Prättigau fell 50 to 80 cm of snow. At the remaining northern ridge, in the remaining parts of Nordbünden, in the Silvretta and in the Samnaun it was 30 to 50 cm, in the other areas less. From the Simplon area over the middle and southern Ticino to Bergell and Puschlav hardly snow fell. SLF. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

As a result of these snowfalls, the avalanche danger in the north and east was classified as “large” (level 4) for the second time in this week’s reporting period (see risk development at the bottom). On Wednesday and Thursday some, probably very large avalanches were reported from Engelberg and the Canton of Glarus, some of which also led to branches. Unfortunately, there were no pictures until the editorial deadline.

Snow

At the end of this week’s report period, there were 120 to 200 cm of snow above about 2000 m in the eastern Bernese Alps, on the central and eastern slopes of the Alps, in northern Grisons and parts of the Gotthard area, and in central Switzerland more than 200 cm in places. To the west and south was still much less snow. (see also snow depth at 2000 m ).

Comparing the snow depths with the long-term average, these are below average below 2000 m, especially in the Valais, Ticino and southern Grisons. In the northeast, they are well above average this week’s snowfalls (see Figure 9/1).

Fig. 9/1: Snow depths compared to the long-term average, shown as a percentage. The map shows all stations between 1000 and 2000 m. These are usually manual measuring fields with long measurement series. The snow depths at these altitudes were below average, above all in southern Valais, Ticino and southern Grisons. SLF. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig. 9/1: Snow depths compared to the long-term average, shown as a percentage. The map shows all stations between 1000 and 2000 m. These are usually manual measuring fields with long measurement series. The snow depths at these altitudes were below average, above all in southern Valais, Ticino and southern Grisons. SLF. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

Above 2000 m, a slightly different picture was presented. There, the snow depths corresponded to the average, in the new snow-rich areas of the north and east, but they were also significantly higher in these altitudes. They were also well above the average in the Simplon area, but still there as a result of the precipitation of October and November (see Figure 9/2).

Fig. 9/2: Snow depths compared to the long-term average, shown as a percentage. The map shows all stations above 2000 m. These are usually automatic measuring stations. Snow depths were broadly in line with the average and were even above average in the northeast and in the Simplon area. The data of the automatic stations are not checked and corrected. It should also be noted that most automatic stations have existed for less than 20 years. SLF. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Fig. 9/2: Snow depths compared to the long-term average, shown as a percentage. The map shows all stations above 2000 m. These are usually automatic measuring stations. Snow depths were broadly in line with the average and were even above average in the northeast and in the Simplon area. The data of the automatic stations are not checked and corrected. It should also be noted that most automatic stations have existed for less than 20 years. SLF. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

Avalanche accidents and damage avalanches

During this week’s reporting period, the avalanche warning service reported six avalanches with passenger involvement. Seven people were carried away. Fortunately, nobody was spilled or injured.

On Thursday night, Säntis (2502 m, Hundwil, AR) saw the release of an extremely large dust avalanche and made its way to Schwägalp, where it covered the hotel, another building and the valley station of the Säntis cable car. The crack width was about 1.5 km, the deposit width about 300 m. Three people were injured. The SLF’s damage avalanche database is aware of three similar events: 27.01.1942, 29.04.1965, 28.12.1986.

 

More Info: Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research. 

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Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Avalanche – SLF.ch – Zermatt Luegelti. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

You can start thinking about your trip, by reading the articles on the Planning your Ski Trip tab.  Or how to pack for your family ski trip.  If taking your furry friend abroad to the continent, read about the new Pet Travel Scheme update from DEFRA. Check out our tips for driving to the mountains.  If flying and renting a car in Europe, beware of the extra charges they will pass to you if you want winter tyres, snow chains or ski racks. If driving, check the winter tyres news for Europe and North America.

Or you can read our last news on equipment as seen at the London Ski Show. Also, the new range of skis of Black Crows, one of our favourite brands. Lots of snow makes you wonder how the resorts deal with the avalanche danger. Here you can read the interview to Coco Torres, former Head of Operations of Las Leñas, in Argentina, as how they dealt with avalanches at the resort. 

Or perhaps you may choose to read the Ski Resort NewsSki Passes News, and the Must-Read Guides to Lech,  Zermatt,  CourmayeurVal di Fiemme and Crans-Montana. Coming soon will be the guide to St Anton. Or  watch an amazing heli flight over the Mont Blanc Massif. Also see tips on how not to be scammed when booking a ski chalet.

You can also read what’s new at Les Trois Vallées and the last article on what is new at the Tirol ski areas,  in Cervinia, in La Plagne, in 3 Zinnen Dolomites ,  in Adelboden, Lenk and Kandertal, in Gstaad, in Chamonix,  in Georgia’s Gudauri Resort and in the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn. And how the US Ski Team has chosen Alpe Cimbra to train for the following four ski seasons as their European home.  Here is the link to our post on the My Voucher Codes ranking of best European Ski Resorts.  

Crested Butte will have a new chairlift to replace Teocalli lift for the 2019/20 ski season.

Danger of Avalanches sign in Switzerland. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Danger of Avalanches sign in Switzerland. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

You can plan where to eat in Aspen Snowmass or which events to attend on-mountain while there.  Sudtirol ski areas have started and their famous Christmas markets have kicked off too. And Cortina D’Ampezzo is getting ready for this winter and the 2021 World Ski Championships.  

Another classic resort, such as St Moritz has been in the news for its famous Cresta Run be opened again for women after a 89 years ban.

Also, you can read how Grandvalira will be staying together as one lift ticket company and how they are adding Ordino Arcalis to  this offer. And also read how someone tried to sabotage some lifts in Vallnord’s Pal Arinsal. And as if it is starting to be a trend, there were two lifts sabotaged in Passo Rolle, in Val di Fiemme, Trentino. Fortunately they were repaired in record time to open to the public.  Also, Mt Hood Meadows was forced to evacuate one lift with 150 skiers and boarders due to a power failure. And the same was the case in a lift with 140 skiers/boarders in Whitefish, Montana.  Or read about the latest investments in Whistler Blackcomb. Or see how Taos is going against the industry trend, and instead of merging with the two biggest oligopolies in skiing at the moment, it goes and buys an airline to get more bums in resort. Or how Jackson Hole is appealing to families and beginners – it is not only a resort for expert skiers anymore. Another great area for families is Stubaital in the Tirol. And a new coming ski area that got funding for its first lift is Skeetawk in Alaska.  Courmayeur is opening this season two new trails, one that is 70% steep – not for the faint-hearted! Or read how a group of experienced industry insiders got together to purchase Tamarack Resort. And how Peak Resorts finalised the acquisition of the resorts of Snow Time. You can also check how Vermont’s ski passes are the most expensive in New England.

Avalanche - KWinkler- Davos. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.
Avalanche – KWinkler- Davos. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions.

Also read how one employee of Aspen Ski Co got caught in an avalanche but got out unscathed while scouting terrain for the Aspen Mountain Powder Tours. Or how the a gondola of the new American Eagle lift from Copper Mountain crashed into the snow in a trial run. The resort confirmed that the chondola will be fixed before it’s opening day. Plus this week, some gondolas got tangled in Hochzillertal. And there was a gas explosion at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof that injured six, before its opening date.

You can keep up to date on how are the sales for the EPIC and IKON passes are doing here. Read how Emma, the first Digital Mountain Assistant, is launched in Keystone now and will be rolled to eight other resorts this season. And even read about the new incorporation to the IKON Pass: Valle Nevado. Here is also a post on the South American resorts.  

Also, Rob Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam donated 2 million USD in grants to support mental and behavioural health programs in ski towns of North America. And see how Aspen Skiing Company released its sustainability report 2018. 

And here is a summary of a report by LISTEX on the State of the UK Snowsports Market.

And what Switzerland could look by 2060 due to climate change.

Or check out how now with the EPIC Pass you can ski in Europe, specifically in Les Trois Vallées and the resorts of Skirama Dolomiti in Trentino’s Italy. Or see our review of L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa if thinking in staying in Chamonix this winter.

Featured Image: Avalanche- Photo: Mike Suarez – Unsplash. Avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland due to dangerous conditions. 

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