There has been a significant drop in avalanche fatalities in both Switzerland and France this winter. In the Valais there were 3 fatalities compared to 11 last season. The resort of Verbier ran special warnings when the risk was 3 or 4 in resort, risk level 3 is frequently seen as a green light by off piste skiers. The canton also ran a special campaign: PAAV (Prevention Accidents Avalanche Valais). Switzerland reported 14 deaths for a total of 124 reported incidents. 8 of the deaths occurred in the Grisons in 6 incidents. The long term Swiss average is 22 deaths per year.
In France there were 6 avalanches involving 9 fatalities (a total of 44 avalanches were reported to the authorities). This is the lowest figure for 50 years. Snow cover was also poor in the Southern Alps.
The Valais authorities put the figures down to their safety campaign but avalanches fatalities are also extremely variable year on year and depend greatly on the snowpack. The number of fatal incidents was the same in the Grisons last season. France and the Valais had good snowfall at the start of the season. Over a meter of snow fell at the start of December. This prevented the formation of a sensitive weak layer at the base of the snow. The season then saw just a couple of big falls, in early January and at the start of April accompanied by very high altitude rain that stabilized conditions. The rest of the time a long anticyclone and cold weather led to a stable avalanche situation. In the Valais the poor snow cover meant more incidents involving crevasses as snow bridges were poor.