What is the real risk from avalanches?

Photo- Mike Suarez- Unsplash. What is the real risk from avalanches?

What is the real risk that avalanches pose?

From Swissinfo.ch

How common are avalanches in Switzerland?

Over the past 20 years, there has been an average of 100 reported avalanches a year where people were involved. On average, 23 people die in avalanches every year, the majority (+90%) in open mountainous areas where people were off-piste skiing, snowboarding, or backcountry touring on skis or snowshoes.

In controlled areas (roads, railways, communities and secured ski runs) the 15-year annual average number of victims dropped from 15 at the end of the 1940s to less than one in 2010. The last time anyone died in a building hit by an avalanche was in 1999.

Avalanche crashes into hotel in eastern Switzerland. What is the real risk from avalanches?
Avalanche crashes into hotel in eastern Switzerland. What is the real risk from avalanches?

Avalanches such as the one that hit the Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp are rare.

Bruno Vattioni, director of the Säntis lift company, said on Friday “an avalanche of this size is not predictable”. Locals have not experienced anything like it in the 84 years’ existence of the Säntis cable car. Normally, the southern face of the Säntis, the other side of the peak, is the more dangerous.

How are avalanches normally monitored?

Since 1945, the national avalanche warning service, run by the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos, produces a twice-daily national avalanche bulletinusing data gathered by 200 people trained to do the job and 170 automatic measuring stations dotted across the Swiss Alps. This information is shared and used by the police, cantons, communes, mountain resorts, rescue services and other winter professionals across the country.

Are they normally successful at monitoring and protecting against avalanches?

The density of the avalanche warning network and the level of training and expertise is unique to Switzerland. But it cannot catch every avalanche, as SLF avalanche forecaster Frank Techel explained to swissinfo.ch.

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How to deal with high prone avalanche terrain. A talk with Coco Torres, formerly of Las Leñas, Argentina.

A Gaz-ex installation in a mountain - methods of containing high prone avalanche areas.

How to deal with high prone avalanche terrain – A talk with Coco Torres, former Mountain Manager in Las Leñas and now Operative Consultant for numerous ski resorts.

Jorge “Coco” Torres has left Las Leñas in the year 2010, having worked for several years as the Mountain Manager in charge of all the avalanches control operations, amongst all other mountain matters.

One of the maps of the off-piste of Las Leñas showcasing its couloirs, which are also coincide avalanche corridors. Las Leñas is a high prone avalanche area.
One of the maps of the off-piste of Las Leñas showcasing its couloirs, which are also coincide avalanche corridors. Las Leñas is a high prone avalanche area.

I’ve contacted him as I’ve always found fascinating how Las Leñas took control of their avalanches. Every time there was a storm at Las Leñas, which could last a whole week, we went on hearing bombing all day and all night. I know that Las Leñas is a high prone avalanche terrain.



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Skiing in Europe, I cannot say I have heard too many bombs at all, so this prompted me to start putting together a couple of stories that will come out on the next months, on how the avalanches are prevented or controlled in different countries of the world.

Coco told me that he left Las Leñas (Mendoza, Argentina) in the year 2010, and since then he has been working as a consultant in mountain projects and developments. He is going to tell me the process used in Las Leñas at least until he left the valley.

Continue reading “How to deal with high prone avalanche terrain. A talk with Coco Torres, formerly of Las Leñas, Argentina.”