An avalanche is a process that incorporates snow or ice from a release area and transports it along an avalanche track as a sliding mass or as a turbulent snow and air mixture down to an accumulation area.
Avalanches in Switzerland
Avalanches have been a prominent natural hazard process in the Alpine country of Switzerland since time immemorial. Numerous Alpine valley settlements, tourism and winter sport centres and forests are exposed to the risk of avalanche. In addition, internationally important infrastructure like the country’s main transit axes are also affected. Over the past 20 years, an average of 22 people died annually in avalanches in Switzerland.
In response to the threat posed by avalanches in Switzerland, the WSL Institute for Snow and Landscape Research (SLF) was established in 1942: the institute analyses avalanche events with the aim of improving the understanding of the process involved in avalanche release. Globally unique documentation and records of weather and snow development and the comparison with past events that have been documented in detail (for example during the avalanche winters of 1951 and 1999) enable the better assessment of avalanche situations and future avalanche events, and also facilitate the better management of avalanche events in accordance with the integrative risk management approach.