Areas of Switzerland saw record snowfall for the month of May overnight from Saturday into Sunday. Most snow fell in the central and eastern alpine regions, but the most dramatic records were observed in lower-lying Bern and St Gallen.
The Swiss capital of Bern woke up to four centimetres of fresh snow on Sunday morning. The previous record for the month was one centimetre in 1945.
The eastern city of St Gallen saw 19 centimetres of snow, up from the 12 centimetres recorded on May 7, 1957, according to the Swiss meteorological service MeteoSwiss.
People have been advised not to take walks in wooded areas, especially in deciduous regions, as wet snow caught in trees could cause branches to fall off.
Weather forecasters have warned of further problems likely to be caused by the unseasonal cold snap next early week. MeteoSwiss forecasts sharp groundfrost in the lowlands on Monday and Tuesday.
The operation of the Säntis suspension railway (Säntisbahn), from the Schwägalp to the Säntis, will be closed during the next months. The reason for this is the damage to the structure of the first ropeway support, which was affected by an avalanche.
For safety reasons, the operation of the Säntis suspension railway will be suspended until further notice. Neither guests nor employees are transported by the suspension railway. the reason for this is the damage in the lower part of the cable car support. Due to an avalanche decline in the period of Sunday, January 13 and Monday, January 14, the avalanche protection of the prop and the structural construction were affected.
It cannot be said yet how big the damage to the support and the construction is. One must, however, assume that the damage is substantial, and the repair work could take months. In the worst-case scenario, the support will even have to be completely replaced. A project team of experts is currently evaluating the damage and will plan how to proceed with the risk accessed correctly.
The recent avalanche occurred at the time when the rescue and clearing work of the previous avalanche of 10 January was discontinued on Schwägalp and the access of the whole area was locked for all people. The reason for the interruption of this work was the heavy snowfall associated with the increased avalanche danger. Like the renewed event showed, the risk was correctly assessed by the professionals. Between the first avalanche event and the one that damaged the prop there was a snowfall of 1.5 meters of fresh snow. This strong snowfall, in combination with high wind in the peaks may have led to a renewed avalanche.
This new avalanche had less snow mass displaced than the first avalanche event. Accordingly, the snow also did not penetrate to the Schwägalp, but came to standstill before.
Due to this recent event, it is assumed that the suspension railway operation Säntis will stop for months. For the employees of the Säntis, the decision of the suspension railway has no consequences, neither financially nor with respect to their employment.
What this means for the current renovation work of the summit restaurant on the Säntis cannot be assessed at this moment. The economic effects cannot be estimated yet. However, the most important thing is to give guests and employees the highest level of safety and security.
SLF’s Swiss Long-Term Statistics of Avalanche Victims. The SLF, (Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research) has been collecting data on all the avalanche accidents that happened in Switzerland since the winter 1936/37. This is an overview of their statistics:
Avalanche victims since 1936
The annual average number of fatalities over the entire period is 25 (Fig. 1).
Spatial distribution of fatal accidents during the last twenty years
More than 90% of the fatal avalanche accidents during the last twenty years occurred in uncontrolled terrain, like for example during off-piste skiing and snowboarding or during backcountry touring on ski or snowshoes. As can be seen in Figure 2, a particularly large number of accidents occurred in the cantons of Valais and Grisons.
But what is the reason of this clustering?
Is the clustering of accidents a consequence of a high touring frequency in these regions, or are there other reasons for a higher avalanche accident risk in these regions?
Avalanche crashes into hotel in eastern Switzerland – from The Local Switzerland
Three people received minor injuries when a hotel in eastern Switzerland was hit by an avalanche on Thursday, police in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden have said, adding that a search for people who may still be missing has been called off for the night before of heavy snowfall and the risk of further avalanches.
The avalanche hit the restaurant of the Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden.
One eyewitness told regional daily St Galler Tagblatt that he and his wife had arrived at the hotel around 3pm and had gone to the restaurant area to have a beer and read the newspapers.
The couple took a seat by the window and then saw snow swirling around. At first the man thought snow was falling from the roof.
“Then there was a huge noise and snow piled into the back of the restaurant,” he said.
The man, who preferred to remain anonymous, said there were only a few people in the restaurant at the time the avalanche struck. He said one person had suffered an arm injury and that at least one person needed to be dug out of the snow.
The Hotel Säntis is at the foot of the mountain of the Säntis mountain – the highest peak in eastern Switzerland’s Alpstein massif.
Snowy conditions in the eastern Swiss canton on St Gallen have caused 45 accidents since Wednesday, St Gallen cantonal police said.
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.
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.
What does Climate Change will mean to a Mountain Nation such as Switzerland by 2060. From Swissinfo.ch – Climate Change in forty years in Switzerland will mean over 40C in the cities, long droughts and not too much snow in winter, Switzerland will be looking as a Mediterranean country. This will have consequences in this land-lock country.
By 2060 the typical weather forecast on a summer day can describe 45C in the cities and twenty days of sustained heat. MeteoSwiss (the federal department of meteorology and climatology) has devised different climate scenarios for Switzerland, in conjunction with the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and publish edit in a report in mid-November. Peter Binder, the head of MeteoSwiss summarised that “Switzerland will be a hotter and drier place”.
Three hurt: Cars swept away by Swiss alpine pass avalanche. “Three people have been hurt after an avalanche swept away two cars attempting to cross an alpine pass in Switzerland on Sunday. All three were taken to hospital where their condition is described as non-life threatening.
The incident took place at around 2pm on the Klausen Pass that connects cantons Uri and Glarus in central Switzerland. At nearly 2,000 meters high, the mountain pass is still affected by snow and had only opened for road traffic earlier in the week”, reports Swissinfo.ch.
“Canton Uri police report that the avalanche struck 200 metres from the top of the pass, sweeping about 100 metres down the road. The injured car occupants were airlifted to hospital and a fourth passenger escaped from the incident unhurt.
This past Sunday, three Spanish skiers have died, overtaken by an avalanche and two others where found alive in Fiescheralp, communicated the Swiss Police. This winter and spring were one of the most mortal ones due to avalanches.
As per the press release from the Police Office of the Valais canton, of a group of five skiers, three people have died and other two have been found alive. “The first investigations point to the victims being from Spanish origin. The formal identification of the deceased is being taking place”, says the release.
The five people were part of a group that on Saturday started a ski touring trip in direction of the Fiescheralp station, in the Valais canton, near the Aletsch glacier. When they were at 2,450 meters of altitude, around 16.45 hours (14.45 GMT), an avalanche trapped the five skiers.
The Magic Pass, this multi-area ski resort pass launched in the Swiss French regions last year – with 25 ski resorts of all sizes, attracted by the end of February 2018, 2.177 million skier-days which brought a 30% increase in visitor numbers compared to the previous season on the same date. In terms of turnover, an increase of 10% was achieved by the end of February compared to the season total from 2016/17.
These results were very encouraging, from very small resorts such as Rathvel, which got 220%, increase in visits, to larger resorts, such as Crans-Montana, that their numbers rose more than 30%.
This spirit of cooperation amongst ski areas has guaranteed an appreciable level of stability for the smaller, less well-known ski areas.
Now looking to the 2018-19 ski season, the Magic Mountains Cooperation is launching the MAGIC Pass with more ski areas- The new areas waiting to be discovered by pass holders are: the Espace Dent Blanche (Evolène – La Forclas – Arolla), the Vallée de Joux (L’Abbaye, – L’Orient – Le Brassus), and the Riviera (Les Pléiades- Rochers-de-Naye). In total, Magic Pass 2018/19 includes more than 30 ski areas of all shapes and sizes.