Swedish skier killed in avalanche in Swiss canton of Valais

A 20-year-old Swedish woman died after being struck by an avalanche in the Swiss canton of Valais on Tuesday.

Swedish skier killed in avalanche in Swiss canton of Valais
File photo: Valais Police

The woman was with a group of people who were skiing off piste in the Mont Gond sector of the Plan-du-Fou region when the avalanche struck, Valais cantonal police said in a statement.

The group was quickly able to locate the woman under the snow thanks to an avalanche transceiver but rescue workers were unable to save her life. 

Local authorities have opened an investigation, police said. 

Meanwhile, two other avalanches hit Valais on Tuesday. In one of those incidents, three hikers who had gone off trail were taken to hospital with minor injuries after being hit by an avalanche in the Verbier area. The other avalanche, on Mont Rogneux in the Lac des Vaux region, saw one person suffer minor injuries. 

After the avalanches, Valais police took to Twitter to warn people to take extra care given the current elevated risk. 

On Monday, a huge swathe of the central Swiss Alps was placed on maximum alert (level 5) for avalanches after heavy snow this month. 

This risk level dropped to level 4, or “high risk” for Tuesday, and this has been again lowered to level 3 (considerable risk) on Wednesday, according to the Swiss snow and avalanche research institute, the SLF. 

The SLF avalanche bulletin for Wednesday January 15th. See the full bulletin here.

But the SLF notes people must continue to exercise caution. Level 3 conditions are the most dangerous for back-country recreationists and are responsible for 50 percent of all avalanche fatalities.

People without experience are advised to stay on open ski runs and trails. There is more information (in English) on risk levels on the SLF website.

Friendly weather conditions are expected across Switzerland on Wednesday after heavy snowfall in recent times in many parts of the Swiss Alps. 





Snow clearing in #chur #switzerland #snow #graubuenden

A post shared by The Local Switzerland (@thelocalswitzerland) on Jan 15, 2019 at 1:38am PST

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‘Critical situation’: Drought threatens Switzerland’s cheese production

The long dry spell has impacted much of the country’s agriculture, including the production of milk and cheese in some Swiss regions.

‘Critical situation’: Drought threatens Switzerland’s cheese production

It is difficult to imagine Switzerland without its cheese, but the heatwave and lack of water is playing a part in this worst-case scenario, with even the iconic Gruyère under threat. 

Usually, Swiss cows spend the summer high up the mountains, grazing on Alpine pastures until they are brought down – sometimes with a bit of local ceremony – from the mountains onto the plain in the fall.

But this year’s heatwave  and drought have disrupted this traditional process – with parched meadows running short of both grass and water, forcing farmers in canton of Vaud to bring their cattle to the lower ground in the middle of summer.

Vaud agricultural authorities estimate that 60 out of Jura’s 200 mountain pastures are “in acute lack of water” and even though the canton is supplying water to the breeders, “the unprecedented heatwave will in any case affect the production of milk and cheese”, Le Temps daily reported.

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The situation is similarly dire in the canton of Fribourg, where the famous Gruyère cheese has been produced for centuries.

“The situation is tense, even critical”, according to Frédéric Ménétrey, director of the Fribourg Chamber of Agriculture, who said that 15 alpine pastures that are inaccessible by road are being supplied by private helicopters.

With “lack of water and dry grass”, milk production could be reduced by “20 to 30 percent”, Said Dominique de Buman, president of the Fribourg Cooperative of Alpine Cheese Producers.

This also means that less Gruyère will be made this year and, if heatwaves and droughts become a standard summer weather, “we must reflect on how to adapt the alpine economy and agriculture to global warming”, Éric Mosimann, manager of the Vaud Society of Alpine Economy, pointed out.
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