Avalanche risk management*


Category:
Knowledge concerning nature
Canton:

Description

*nomination file submitted to the UNESCO, examinations procedure in progress

Historical, economic and topographical circumstances in Switzerlandhave led to an accumulation of specialist practical knowledge and skills with respect to the alpine landscape. Dealing with the risk of avalanches provides a perfect example.

Practical knowledge was reflected in pre-industrial society in the structure of settlements and in religious practices such as votive offerings. Furthermore, even early society took steps to deal with the risk of avalanches and their consequences, for example the Great St Bernard Hospice with the St Bernard dog as a symbol for alpine rescue.

In the course of the twentieth century many methods of active prevention were developed and implemented. As well as new protective constructions and improved forest maintenance, measures also included planning tools such as risk maps and avalanche registries. At the same time, rescue services have seen some significant changes in terms of professionalism, electronic searching devices, evacuation techniques and airlifts (e.g. Air Glacier, Air Zermatt). Recently, the development of specialist institutions brought scientific progress to the problems posed by avalanches in Switzerland, forming the basis for the expansion of the alarm and crisis management units.

Image gallery

  • Avalanche rescue course, 1977 © Mediathek Wallis, Martigny
  • Avalanche, school mural by Albert Chavaz, ca 1940 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Avalanche on Simplon Road, print, ca 1867 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Wilhelm Ritz: Votive image at St Anne’s Chapel, Auf der Furen, Kippel, oil on canvas, 1856 © Lötschentaler Museum, Kippel
  • The avalanche, print, ca 1836 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Unknown artist: Rescue by the dogs of Great St Bernard, ca 1820 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Abraham Samuel Fischer: Panoramic view of Leukerbad, watercolour, ca 1786 (showing an avalanche wall on the right) © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Avalanche rescue course, 1977 © Mediathek Wallis, Martigny
  • Avalanche, school mural by Albert Chavaz, ca 1940 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Avalanche on Simplon Road, print, ca 1867 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Wilhelm Ritz: Votive image at St Anne’s Chapel, Auf der Furen, Kippel, oil on canvas, 1856 © Lötschentaler Museum, Kippel
  • The avalanche, print, ca 1836 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Unknown artist: Rescue by the dogs of Great St Bernard, ca 1820 © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten
  • Abraham Samuel Fischer: Panoramic view of Leukerbad, watercolour, ca 1786 (showing an avalanche wall on the right) © Geschichtsmuseum Wallis, Sitten

Video

Jean Lehérissey : The Great St Bernard, silent film, 1936 (extract) © Jean Lehérissey/Médiathèque Valais, Martigny

Néjib Jaouadi : “Avalanches – La neige déchaînée”, film, 2010 (extracts) © Ecole cantonale d’art du Valais, Sierre

References and documentation

Publications
  • Robert Bolognesi : Attention avalanche ! Evaluer et réduire les risques. Paris, 2003

  • Andrée Fauchère : Evolène, 21 février 1999, 20h27…, Genève, 1999

  • Roland Flückiger-Seiler: Lawinen. In: Siedlungsanlagen und Siedlungsformen (Die Bauernhäuser des Kantons Wallis 3.1). Ed. Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Volkskunde. Basel, 2011, p. 76-81

  • Boris Gusic, Miriam Weber, Philipp Imboden: Lawinenverbauungen aus Trockensteinmauern am Beispiel Faldumalp. Diplomwahlfacharbeit am Institut für Denkmalpflege und Bauforschung, ETHZ. Zürich, 2008

  • Anne Herold-Revaz, Sylvie Dulex Putallaz, Laurent Bridel : Représentations du risque d’avalanches et comportements sociaux dans deux communes valaisannes. Salvan et Evolène. Zürich, 1998

  • Pascal Ruedin, Marie Claude Morand : Montagne je te hais – Montagne je t’adore / Berg, ich hasse dich – Berg ich liebe dich. Ed. Musées cantonaux du Valais. Sion, 2005

  • Service des forêts et du paysage du canton du Valais / Dienststelle für Wald und Landschaft des Kantons Wallis (Ed.): Avalanches ! Les événements de février 1999 / Lawinen! Die Ereignisse vom Februar 1999. Sion, 2009

Documentation