Home News Avalanche risk level recedes slightly in Swiss Alps

Avalanche risk level recedes slightly in Swiss Alps

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The avalanche danger level in large parts of the central and eastern Swiss Alps has been lowered from the maximum (level 5) to “high” (level 4), as heavy snowfalls abated on Tuesday.

Conditions for snow sports, however, remain dangerous above 2,000 metres in off-piste areas. The Davos-based Institute for Snow and Avalancheexternal link (SLF), which issues daily avalanche bulletins, said on Tuesday that conditions for off-piste skiing were “very critical”. Individuals could still trigger large avalanches, which may also be set off spontaneously, it said, adding that this risk had decreased since the end of the heavy snows on Tuesday.

In a rare move on Monday, SLF issued its highest avalanche risk rating of “level 5”external link (very high) covering a swathe of central and eastern Switzerland, which included major winter tourism areas like Davos, Klosters, Grindelwald, Engelberg, Andermatt and Disentis.

According to SLF, a level 5 risk means that “numerous very large and extremely large natural avalanches can be expected. These can reach roads and settlements in the valley”. The SLF warns people not to engage in winter sports beyond open ski runs and trails.

Heavy snow

Between Monday and Tuesday, 40-70 centimetres of fresh snow fell in the Bernese Oberland and Graubünden Alps. Above 2,000 m, snow layers of 2.5-3.5 metres are the norm. This year, in the Bernese Oberland, Gotthard region and Glarus Alps, snow has fallen to a depth of 4-5 metres.

Eastern Switzerland and canton Graubünden have seen exceptional snowfall with levels more than twice the seasonal norm. At the mountain resort of Arosa in canton Graubünden, the snow depth measures 2 metres, which has not happened in 70 years.

Conditions remain dangerous. On Tuesday, a 20-year-old Swedish woman died in an avalanche while skiing with a group off piste above Haute Nendaz in canton Valais.

Last Thursday, a 300-metre-wide avalanche swept down the Schwägalp in canton Appenzell Outer Rhodes in northeastern Switzerland, burying over 25 vehicles in a car park and crashing into a restaurant. Three people were injured. Earlier this month, two people were killed and one injured in separate avalanches in ski regions.

Train services have also been affected by the heavy snow. In canton Graubünden, the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) continues to encounter problems. Traffic was again interrupted on Tuesday morning between Klosters and Davos after trees fell on the line. A bus service is in place. Buses also replaced trains between Davos and Filisur due to the avalanche dangers.

Between cantons Valais and Uri, the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn trains are again up and running between Niederwald and Oberwald. However, the Realp-Andermatt line remains closed.

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