Swiss-Austrian ‘avalanche danger management’ submitted to Unesco

The system by which Switzerland and Austria predicts and manages avalanche danger has been submitted to Unesco for potential inclusion on its ‘intangible heritage’ list.

Swiss-Austrian ‘avalanche danger management’ submitted to Unesco
Photo: SLF/Margherita Maggioni
The joint candidacy was lodged with Unesco on Friday, said the Swiss government in a statement
The threat of avalanches in Switzerland and Austria has given rise to a joint management system between the two countries based on a vast bank of historical data gathered over the centuries, it said. 
“This ancestral knowledge continually evolves combining historic practices with the most specialized techniques,” it said.
To prepare the candidacy, the Swiss federal culture office worked with both Swiss and Austrian bodies and experts including the Institute for the study of snow and avalanches (SLF) and the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC).
Unesco is expected to give its verdict in November 2018. 
Avalanche danger management was one of eight Swiss traditions approved by the Swiss government in 2014 for submission to Unesco’s ‘intangible heritage’ list, which, according to Unesco, refers to “practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills transmitted by communities from generation to generation”. 
Last year one of the eight, a wine festival held once every 20 years in Vevey called the Fête des Vignerons, was successfully granted Unesco status
Basel’s Fasnacht festival, the biggest carnival in Switzerland, was submitted for consideration last April, with a decision by Unesco expected this December.
In the next few years Switzerland also plans to submit to Unesco the traditions of yodelling, precision watchmaking, the alpine livestock season and Swiss typographic design.
In addition, Switzerland is also participating in another collaborative project to submit ‘the construction of dry-stone walls’ to the list along with Greece, Croatia, Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia and Cyprus. 

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Weather warning: Part of Swiss Alps placed on high avalanche alert

Due to the heavy snowfall in recent days and more expected until the weekend, an avalanche warning is issued for Switzerland’s southern canton of Valais.

Weather warning: Part of Swiss Alps placed on high avalanche alert
Avalanche warnings should be taken very seriously. Photo by AFP

Valais authorities said the current avalanche risk level is between 4 and 5, meaning ‘high’ to ‘extreme’.

The population is urged to stay at home. When out, they should obey the signs and especially stay away from the avalanche corridors, officials warned.

Significant amounts of snow have fallen in the area in recent days, dumping 1 metre of snow above the altitude of 2,000 metres in the upper part of the canton. Between 30 and 40 centimetres are still expected. 

The highest risk of avalanches is in the Goms valley, the Zermatt valley, as well as the entire right bank of the Rhône. 

Some particularly threatened areas could even be evacuated, authorities said.

People planning to go skiing in Valais over the next few days should check snow conditions and avalanche warnings in place, especially as many roads, mainly in Upper Valais, are cut off, and a number of villages in the Goms Valley, Lötschental and the Zermatt region are no longer accessible by road or train. 

The Avalanche Bulletin is a good source of information not just for Valais, but for all of Switzerland’s mountain regions.

READ MORE: Is the pandemic to blame for Switzerland's spate of avalanche deaths? 

Avalanches have been particularly deadly in Switzerland this winter, having claimed 14 lives so far — well above the average yearly figure of eight people.

Avalanches have caused casualties in the mountains of Valais, Vaud, Graubünden, Obwalden and Schwyz. 

With many people concerned about the potential for contracting coronavirus on the slopes, the idea of skiing off piste has become more attractive. 

But this practice can trigger massive avalanches, so it is crucial to stay away from unsecured slopes.

READ MORE: Large crowds on Swiss ski slopes spark concern over coronavirus spread