A Very Unusual Day

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The 17th of February 1991 was a gorgeous day after a cold week with snowfall of between 30 and 45cm accompanied, in some regions, by wind from the west. The increase in temperatures was significant, at 2100 meters the thermometer went from -13 to 0C. That day the avalanche bulletin indicated a localised strong risk of wind [[slab avalanches]] on northern aspects for almost all of Switzerland.

The bill for that day can be summarized some figures and indications:

  • 7 accidents due to avalanche, all on Northern,North West or North East slopes.
  • 9 people caught, five deaths

Of four survivors, three were found because a hand or a foot was visible on the surface and the fourth was found after 20 minutes of burial by a probe search by the piste patrol who had seen the avalanche.

All the avalanches, five on off piste and two ski mountaineering had taken place between 12h30 and 16h30.

That total is the reflection of a day where all the dangers were present even though it seemed to be a ideal conditions to go skiing. It was Sunday, clear blue skies after a week of cold weather and there was fresh snow with powder on the Northern slopes. The temperature was agreeable and the people who packed their kit that day all thought it was time to play.

Unfortunately that Sunday above all others was a day you had to take into account the weather for the last week, the evolution of the snow pack and the avalanche bulletin.

Categories: Snow Safety