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An avalanche cone after melting
Avalanche of dust

As avalanches masses are snow , ice , mud or stones called, crumbles from mountainsides and slide into the valley or overturn. Avalanches that cause major damage to property, people or the environment are counted as natural disasters .

Word origin

The word «avalanche» goes back to Alpine Romance lavīna or Latin labīna , landslide '; This is based on the Latin verb lābi ' to slide'. In the old Upper German of the 8th / 9th In the 19th century, lewina, lewin or louwin was used as a translation for Latin torrēns 'torrent'; In the High and High Alemannic dialects , where the Alpine Romance lavīna became sound and form variants such as Lauwene, Laubene, Lauene and the like (with emphasis on the first syllable), the word primarily acquired the meaning «snow slide» in the course of the Middle Ages . The Swiss humanists tried to connect the word, which was no longer transparent to them, to “ lioness ”.

In the 18th century, the Swiss German Lauwene, Laubene, Lauene became known throughout the German-speaking area through travel literature . The fact that the relatinised form of avalanche prevailed (with an emphasis on the middle syllable) is essentially due to Friedrich Schiller 's drama Wilhelm Tell, which premiered in 1804 .

The word Lahn, Lähn and similar (cf. the mountain name Lahnerkopf ) and derived from it Lahngang 'Avalanche slope' is originally related to Avalanche, but is not a loan word from Romansh like this , but a German hereditary word .

Historical reports

PJ Loutherbourg the Elder J .: Avalanche dans les Alpes, 1803 - an ice fall is actually shown.

Ever since humans opened up the alpine habitat, they have been threatened by avalanches. From the literature, military campaigns that crossed the Alps in particular are known to be affected. Hannibal lost on his crossing of the Alps in 218 BC. Around half of its soldiers (around 20,000 men) and an unknown number of elephants due to avalanches.

Avalanche types

Depending on the nature of their departure, there are two basic types of avalanches, after the nature of their surface scratch snow slabs and loose snow avalanches , besides, they are divided also according to their scope and scale. A roof avalanche is a snow avalanche on a small scale that goes off buildings.

Avalanches must be distinguished from ice falls .

Slab avalanches

Demolition area of ​​a slab

A sign of slab avalanches is a line-shaped outline across the slope. Extensive layers of the snow cover - often consisting of drifted snow  - initially slide off cohesively on a sliding layer . In the course of the descent, a slab avalanche can develop into a dust avalanche. Such a sliding layer can arise, for example, through the nigg effect .

They represent the classic avalanche danger for snow sports enthusiasts and mountaineers. A so-called snow slab can come off spontaneously or be triggered by the additional stress in the terrain. Extensive layers of snow can tear off and ski down on the mountain side above the terrain. Dangers for victims of a slab avalanche are suffocation, injuries from impact with rocks, falls or the pressure of the often tons of snow.

Slab avalanches usually occur on slopes between 30 ° and 50 °. But they are also possible with smaller slopes, from around 25 °. Slab avalanches are rare on slopes of more than 50 °; loose snow avalanches usually occur beforehand on these slopes.

The term slab initially suggests a hard texture. In reality, however, extensive avalanche releases occur even in very soft, hard-to-see snow drifts: The term merely describes that a whole mass of snow starts moving "like a board" at once, without necessarily forming a solid body. Scientific studies investigate how fractures spread in weak layers so that an entire slope breaks off at once. With the movement, the board then breaks into smaller pieces, which slide on top of each other in the run-out, compact and remain as a solidified deposit (or an avalanche cone).

A distinction is made between dry and wet slab avalanches.

Loose snow avalanches

Loose snow avalanches in rocky slope

A loose snow avalanche is characterized by a punctiform crack. The avalanche grows through a chain reaction. Avalanches like these occur mainly in unconsolidated snow. It is further subdivided into dry loose snow avalanches and wet loose snow avalanches (superficial wetting). Loose snow avalanches require a slightly higher slope than slab avalanches because of the energy required to propagate movement. A frequent occurrence is observed at about 40–60 ° slope.

Avalanches of dust

Departure of a dust avalanche

Avalanches of dust occur when a large mass of snow falls down a steep slope and absorbs more snow. The snow is whirled up, creating a snow-air mixture ( aerosol ). A dust avalanche can reach speeds of over 300 km / h.

The dust avalanche is accompanied by enormous air pressure fluctuations (pressure in front of the front, suction behind), which are very dangerous. These fluctuations in pressure, which can be similar to the conditions in a cyclone , lead to great destruction. Trees are snapped, roofs are torn off and windows are dented, causing snow to penetrate the house. If the snow-air mixture gets into the lungs of humans or animals, this can lead to death by suffocation after a short time . In addition, the flow of dust avalanches is dangerous as it can lead to spills.

Ice avalanches

Ice avalanches are a result of the slow glacier movements. The ice moves to the edge of a break and falls in individual chunks beyond it. At first this is more like a stone avalanche than the familiar snow avalanches, but then the falling chunks of ice are broken into fine snow particles upon impact and can hardly be distinguished from a flowing avalanche.

Flowing avalanches

Are predictable ground avalanches that break out especially in spring when the weather thaws. The soft snow loses grip more quickly and slides down the mountain.

Upper and lower avalanches

basic avalanche on the Auerspitz

The above classification can be refined:

  • One speaks of an upper avalanche when the upper layer of snow slips on the one below.
  • On the other hand slides the entire snowpack downhill so exposed soil is visible is called the avalanche as a basic avalanche , (less than soil avalanche ).

Slope and valley avalanches

In contrast to valley avalanches, slope avalanches do not reach the foot of the slope (or the valley), but come to a standstill on the slope.


Many factors are involved in the development of an avalanche, which can either reinforce or weaken one another. It is not possible to consider the development of an avalanche independently of the type of avalanche. B. slab and wet snow avalanches are quite different processes. The risk assessment is therefore also carried out differently depending on the type of avalanche. Understanding these development factors is the necessary basis for risk assessment and for preparing an avalanche bulletin .

Amount of fresh snow

A large amount of fresh snow within a short period of time increases the risk of avalanches. While in very favorable conditions up to 50 cm of fresh snow can fall before the danger of avalanches increases, in unfavorable conditions even 10 cm of fresh snow can be dangerous. Unfavorable conditions are understood to mean very low temperatures, strong winds and an existing unstable snow cover.

Slope of the terrain

Avalanche cone on the Simplon Pass (2019)

The danger of an avalanche is mainly present on slopes between 30 ° and 50 °, with a steeper slope generally favoring an avalanche - compare the forces on the inclined plane . The steepest point on the slope - approximately 10 m × 10 m in size - is decisive. Avalanches only rarely occur below a slope of 25 °, or only under special circumstances. With a slope of 60 ° or more, avalanches are almost impossible, as the snow slips off spontaneously early on; therefore, significant amounts of snow cannot collect at all.

The slope of the terrain is also relevant with regard to solar radiation: If the light hits the ground more or less at right angles, the snow absorbs more heat than if the sun shines on the snow at a flat angle. This plays a role in wet snow avalanches, for example.

Hillside location

The hillside location plays an important role. Northern slopes are the least exposed (in northern latitudes) to solar radiation, which means that the stabilization of the snowpack slows down and danger areas are preserved for longer. Conversely, southern slopes are more tricky in late winter, as greater heat favors wet snow avalanches.

Depending on the wind situation, snow drifts also collect on specific slopes.

Land cover

Land cover is another factor that influences the formation of avalanches. Dense forest can make it more difficult for slabs to be removed; conversely, old grass favors the like. The departure of ground avalanches, snow-covered frost or layers of ice favor upper avalanches. The forest can prevent avalanches from starting, but it cannot stop large dust avalanches.

Drift snow

Snow can be transported by the wind. This so-called drift snow is deposited on the leeward side of ridges, in gullies and hollows or at the foot of slopes facing the wind. On the ridges it forms snow drifts and snow banks on the leeward side . This transported snow is unstable, and even the smallest disruptive influences can lead to a slab avalanche. Drift snow can be both hard and soft and is therefore not easy to spot. Even after it has been snowed in by subsequent fresh snow, it retains its potential danger. Drift snow is dangerous because the ice crystals are abraded and do not interlock much. The cohesion of drift snow is therefore much less than that of fresh snow. So-called Windgangeln or Sastrugi can indicate the transport of snowdrifts.

Structure of the snow layer

If there is a lot of snow lying on a slope in a short time, the load on the snow cover due to the additional weight increases faster than the settlement and consolidation can proceed. The pressure on the lower layers becomes so great that they can no longer withstand the load. Even a small additional load, e.g. For example, the weight of a skier can cause the layers of snow to slide and lead to an avalanche. Snow covers with large differences in strength between the deposited layers or a weak snow cover that is moistened for the first time are particularly unstable. Intermediate layers embedded in the snow cover - for example from drift snow , floating snow , hoar frost or ice lamellas - contribute to the aggravation of the situation and form the sliding horizons on which the snow cover slips off.

Temperature and temperature change

The lower the temperature, the longer it takes for the fresh snow to solidify. Avalanche-prone slopes thus retain their potential danger for a long time. If the temperature rises rapidly, the danger of avalanches can increase - because of the moisture penetration down to the ground or through the transformation of snow crystals. In this way, wet snow avalanches in particular occur. Basically, every change in temperature results in a change in the avalanche situation. The avalanche danger is lowest when mild temperature changes accelerate the solidification of the snow. Ultimately, because of the midday heat, the mountain climbing rule of thumb applies that you should have reached the summit at midday or before in order to start the descent in good time.

Avalanche research

It used to be believed that avalanches were caused by witches or ghosts or that it was a punishment from God. In the late Middle Ages, natural events received greater attention as the trigger for avalanches, such as: B. loud noises or throwing objects (snowballs) onto a slope prone to avalanches.

Today, avalanches are scientifically researched through model tests in the laboratory and in the field, computer simulations or artificially triggered avalanches (e.g. at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos).

In order to be able to assess the avalanche danger as correctly as possible, field tests must be carried out. This includes B. the creation of snow profiles to analyze the different layers and shapes of the snow crystals , or the creation of slide blocks . Avalanche researchers also rely on meteorological data in order to be able to make a statement about the type of snow, which in turn influences the formation of avalanches.

Attempts have been made to integrate satellite images into avalanche research since around the year 2000 . By comparing images that were recorded in different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum , one can deduce the type of snow crystals, because each type of snow reflects the light differently. Thus, one can determine the snow density as well as the temperature, water and air content. The disadvantage of the satellite images is that they only show the top layer of snow, which makes a more detailed analysis of the situation difficult.

Many other methods are used in research to investigate the snow cover, its interaction with the atmosphere and the formation and dynamics of avalanches and to develop measures for avalanche protection and risk management. These include B. measuring instruments such as radar, SnowMicroPen or near-infrared cameras, with which the stratification of the snow cover is analyzed, as well as seismic, acoustic and optical sensors, with which avalanches are detected. Computer models are also used that simulate the snowpack (Snowpack or Alpine 3D) or calculate avalanche releases (RAMMS) and provide important information for avalanche warning or the calculation of avalanche danger zones.

Avalanche warnings and avalanche protection

Avalanche barriers and protective forests in Switzerland

In the Alpine countries , the USA , Canada and Japan , great efforts are made to protect the population from avalanches.

Avalanche danger

The current avalanche danger for a certain area is given in the danger levels 1 to 5 in the European avalanche danger scale. This current avalanche warning level is announced every day by the avalanche warning services in the Alpine countries . Local avalanche commissions advise the authorities on the need for protective measures for settlements, ski areas and traffic routes.

The avalanche danger can only be assessed on the basis of the local conditions on a potential avalanche slope. The judgment lie

  • the avalanche bulletin ,
  • own observations,
  • meteorological developments,
  • the structure of the snowpack,
  • ...


Avalanche protection

An avalanche warning sign

Avalanche protection can be divided into active and passive measures based on the type of intervention:

Passive avalanche protection measures

Passive protective measures are mostly used for prevention . Building permits can be withdrawn or evacuations can be ordered in areas prone to avalanches . The passive measures also include avalanche galleries as well as deflection and brake structures to protect roads, bridges and structures.

Active avalanche protection measures

Active protective measures are intended to prevent avalanches from occurring. Forests offer the cheapest protection. That is why there are special reforestation programs (see protective forest ). If there are no trees, artificial protective structures ( avalanche barriers ) are created. For this purpose, nets, grids or windbreaking barriers made of wood , concrete or steel are installed on slopes from which avalanches can occur . This either subdivides the snow cover so that large slabs cannot become detached, or prevents snow accumulations at critical points. Even artificial avalanche triggers associated with this policy set. With the help of helicopters , cannons or cable car systems, etc., explosives are transported to critical points, thrown from permanently installed masts or the snow cover is destabilized by igniting an explosive gas mixture in order to trigger small controlled avalanches. This relieves the snow cover and prevents uncontrolled avalanches.

Avalanche protection measures can also be divided into permanent and temporary protection measures with regard to the mode of action.

Temporary avalanche protection measures

Avalanche explosion with a mortar near the Bernina Railway , 1967
Control and equipment container for an avalanche blasting system in Austria

Temporary avalanche protection measures are used at short notice and tailored to the time, place and extent of the avalanche danger. Local avalanche commissions or other bodies decide on the basis of avalanche warning, situation monitoring, prognosis and reports

Permanent avalanche protection measures

Permanent avalanche protection is understood to mean technical, forest-biological and spatial planning measures as well as the education of affected and interested groups of people about snow and avalanche processes.

  • Avalanche protection plantings
  • Support structures (snow bridges, nets)
  • Snow protection (wooden trestles)
  • Drift barriers
  • Brake structures (humps, wedges)
  • Deflection, guiding and containment dams
  • Avalanche galleries
  • Avalanche hills near buildings
  • Snow collar (historical mining)

Combination of avalanche protection measures

  • Temporary and passive measures are used to avoid the effects of the avalanche on people and property at the time of danger and within a limited period of time.
  • Temporary and active avalanche protection measures are used to control the process and the effects of the avalanche release.
  • Permanent and passive measures, without intervening in the process, reduce the effects of an avalanche through structural measures. Hazardous areas are identified by spatial planning specifications and construction or settlement bans are specified.
  • Through permanent and active avalanche protection measures, attempts are made to prevent, slow down or distract the process of avalanche formation and departure.

Early warning systems

Radar station for avalanche monitoring in Zermatt

Warning systems can detect avalanches that are developing slowly, e.g. B. Ice avalanches when ice breaks from glaciers. Using interferometric radar , high-resolution camera systems or motion sensors, an unstable area can be observed over a long period of time ranging from a few days to years. By interpreting the data, experts can recognize imminent terminations and initiate measures. Such systems (e.g. glacier monitoring on Weissmies in Switzerland) can detect events a few days in advance.

Alarm systems

Modern radar technology enables large areas to be monitored and avalanches to be localized in all weather conditions, day or night. Complex alarm systems can detect the avalanche in a very short time and thus immediately and automatically block off a hazardous area (e.g. roads and railways) or evacuate it (e.g. construction sites). One such project is on the only access road to Zermatt in Switzerland, for example. Two radars monitor a mountain slope under which the access road runs. In the event of an avalanche, the street is automatically closed with several barriers and traffic lights within seconds so that no one can be harmed.

What to do in the event of an avalanche, avalanche rescue

Annual number of avalanche deaths in Switzerland from 1937 to 2009

Avalanches not only threaten settlements, but also people who move about in nature. Ski tourers , snowboarders , snowshoeers and other winter sports enthusiasts are particularly affected by slab avalanches . In Switzerland alone, an average of 25 people die in avalanches every winter, most of which triggered the avalanche itself. Most of the victims, however, were to be mourned when large avalanches hit villages and, as in the avalanche winter of 1950/51, surprised people in their homes.

Preventive measures when staying in the area

Avalanche safety equipment consisting of (from left to right): Avalanche Airbag System (avalanche airbag), folded avalanche probe, avalanche shovel and avalanche transceiver (the 2-antenna device shown no longer corresponds to the state of the art)

There is a potential danger of avalanches in snow-covered alpine terrain. Leaving the secured ski area means taking a certain risk. Many alpine winter sports, however, use the natural environment as a field of action. This requires a preventive approach to the risk factor through strategic decision-making systems, also known as strategic avalanche awareness. Strategic avalanche science is the systematic handling of the avalanche risk within a risk management system. As groundbreaking for its development was the early 1990s, developed Formula 3 × 3 and elementary reduction method according to Munter .

The complexity of the factors that lead to avalanches (especially in the snow cover) overwhelm people's cognitive abilities. Nevertheless, a "YES-or-NO" decision must be made for climbing a slope. It is important that not only experts, but also amateur winter mountaineers have to make such decisions. The more complex a decision, the more important it is to have simple decision-making and action concepts ready. This is done through the use of risk management systems and decision strategies that work on a probability basis. In order to be able to assess the risk accordingly, sufficient knowledge, competence and experience are necessary. A good physical condition makes it possible to implement corresponding decisions.

Furthermore, emergency prevention includes adequate, functional and tested safety equipment. The following devices have established themselves as the minimum standard for every winter mountaineer:

In addition, there is the avalanche ball , avalanche airbag and the avalung . The risk can be further minimized by observing safety distances, good lanes and careful driving style when descending on a slope. Straps for sticks and skis should be loosened before a descent, as they can pull the athlete down if they are buried.

On the part of the authorities, preventive measures such as initially closing off individual areas and later also triggering avalanches in a controlled manner by detonating them (avalanche safety teams) can be considered.

What to do in the event of an avalanche

Rescue after avalanche burial. Those buried wear avalungs (avalanche snorkels)

If you are in danger of being caught in an avalanche, you can fall back on several options, which, however, do not guarantee success. In any case, it increases the chances of survival if the winter sports enthusiast is buried as little as possible and has a chance to breathe . A “fire escape” (ie driving fast in the fall line in order to escape the avalanche), which was often recommended in the past, only rarely seems to have been successful, since avalanches are generally very fast and the entire slope often breaks up. If you are on the edge of an avalanche slope, you can try to reduce the risk of burial by driving quickly away from the snow masses. Even skilful “riding” with skis on the avalanche should only have been successful for a few people. Also recommended "swimming movements" in the snow masses are pointless according to statements of buried subjects. It is more promising to activate any rescue equipment that is carried with you immediately. These are, for example, an "avalanche airbag" (pulling the release handle ignites a gas cartridge which inflates one or more air cushions on the backpack), which can prevent a deep burial, or the "avalung" (you put a kind of snorkel in your mouth and can usually breathe under the snow - the exhaled air is diverted on the back), which reduces the risk of suffocation. Skis, snowboards and sticks act like an anchor within an avalanche and can pull a person deeper into the snow masses. Therefore, the athlete should try to loosen his / her ski / snowboard and throw away any sticks that may be present. The use of lanyards should be avoided in this context, as they can act like an anchor chain.

Often there are other people on site who are not affected by the avalanche. Since the survival rate of avalanche victims decreases rapidly, the "help from comrades" by those present can save lives. Organized mountain rescue usually takes more than a quarter of an hour to arrive due to the alarm and disengagement times. The on-site help begins with the closest possible observation of the burial. The registration of the detection point and the disappearance point enables conclusions to be drawn about the primary area to be searched. A correct emergency call should be sent at the same time .

Avalanche rescue

Switzerland, buried railway line, December 1931

Taking into account the self-protection (avalanches) must then quickly rescue initiated. After the standstill, the avalanche surface is first searched for items of clothing or equipment. Many a partially buried person can be found this way. At the same time one searches with electronic avalanche transceivers . It must be ensured that all participants switch their transceiver from sending to receiving before the search so as not to locate each other. After the buried victim has been located, avalanche probes are used to localize the location even more precisely. Since you can also use the avalanche probe to determine the burial depth, you can start digging underneath the probe and work your way horizontally to the buried subject. One pays attention to whether there was an air cavity and begins with first aid measures . If the patient is hypothermic , he must be carefully rescued. If it is moved too vigorously and the circulation is stimulated, hypothermic and extremely oxygen-deficient blood flows towards the internal organs. There is a risk of so-called rescue death . In addition to the aids mentioned above, the mountain rescue service can also - if available - use the RECCO system and avalanche search dogs . The use of avalanche dogs would make the most sense right at the beginning, before a person has entered the avalanche cone, but this can only be achieved in the rarest of cases.

Survival in the avalanche with hypothermia

“The probability of surviving a burial for more than two hours is three to ten percent.” (Surveyed in the Alpine region). A supply of oxygen, which seeps in from below through loose snow, for example, is a good prerequisite for helping the victim to keep his body temperature as little as possible from falling. Rebreathing of exhaled carbon dioxide in a closed air cavity leads to unconsciousness. If the body temperature is below 32 ° C, cardiac arrhythmias occur; below 24 ° C, vital functions usually cease to exist. Reheating a person who is deeply hypothermic (below 30 ° C) is an intensive medical process that can take hours to days. A woman who was buried in Lombardy for 48 hours in 1974 survived the longest.

Major avalanche accidents

In the past 100 years there have been an average of 100 deaths from avalanches in the Alps each year. Some particularly serious accidents worldwide are listed here.

  • October 16, 2014 - In connection with cyclone “Hudhud”, there is snowfall in the Himalayas . At least 21 climbers are killed.
  • April 2014 - 16 Nepalese die in an icefall on Mount Everest
  • September 23, 2012 - After two avalanches on Manaslu on Camp III at an altitude of 7000 m at 5 a.m., 11 out of 30 mountaineers died.
  • April 7, 2012 - An avalanche buries 124 soldiers and 11 civilian employees at a Pakistani military base near the Siachen Glacier in the Gayari district. Despite the rescue operation, nobody survived.
  • January 3, 2010 - A ski touring group triggered an avalanche in Diemtigtal , which buried one of the members. During the rescue, twelve people were buried in a secondary avalanche from the opposite slope, seven of whom did not survive the event.
  • September 20, 2002 - 150 people were killed in an avalanche accident in the Karmadon Gorge in North Ossetia.
  • December 28, 1999 - In an avalanche accident in the Jamtal (municipality of Galtür , Austria) nine participants of a guided DAV Summit Club group die .
  • February 23, 1999 - The avalanche disaster in Galtür (Tyrol) claims 38 lives.
  • February 21, 1999 - The Evolène avalanche accident in the canton of Valais in Switzerland kills 12.
  • January 1998 - Nine students and two teachers are killed on a hike in the French Alps.
  • February 1991 - On the Italian side of Mont Blanc , an ice avalanche buries seven skiers.
  • 1991 - An avalanche in Bingöl ( Turkey ) devastated several villages, killing 200 people.
  • 1972 - The survivors of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 on October 13th were surprised by an avalanche on October 29th in their aircraft wreckage, which was used as a shelter. Of the 27 survivors of the plane crash to date, eight people died in the avalanche.
  • April 1970 - 74 people - including 56 children - die in an avalanche on the Plateau d'Assy in the Savoy Alps .
  • February 24, 1970 - An avalanche in Reckingen in Valais kills 30 people.
  • Feb.10, 1970 - Avalanche disaster in Val-d'Isere , 39 dead.
  • May 15, 1965: An avalanche that swept over the sun terrace of the Hotel Schneefernerhaus and the lifts on the Zugspitzplatt left 10 dead and 21 injured. This event gave the impetus for the introduction of a state avalanche warning service and local avalanche commissions in Bavaria.
  • January 11, 1962 - An avalanche breaks off Huascarán , the highest mountain in Peru. The city of Yungay is destroyed, and other towns are reached by a tidal wave caused by snow masses falling into a river. A total of around 4,000 people die (according to other sources 12,000 to 20,000 people), making it the worst snow-related disaster ever.
  • January 11, 1954 - Vorarlberg - When an avalanche destroys the place Blons (Vorarlberg), 118 people are buried in their houses. A second avalanche nine hours later buried the majority of the rescue teams. In the end, 55 people can only be recovered dead, the remains of two other victims remain missing.
  • also on January 11, 1954, major avalanche disaster in Switzerland. 23 locals and 10 tourists die.
  • 1950/1951 ( avalanche winter 1951 ) - 265 people lose their lives in the Alps due to avalanches.
  • February 7, 1945 - Avalanche accident on the Eppzirler Alm , 18 mountain hunters die on the ski ascent to the Eppzirler Scharte.
  • December 5, 1935: 88 dead and 42 injured in an avalanche accident in Kukiswumtschorr in the Chibinen (near Kirovsk ).
  • January 9, 1918: The worst avalanche accident in Japan occurs when half the village of Mitsumata (now part of Yuzawa ) is buried by an avalanche and 158 people are killed.
  • 1915–1918 - In the Alpine War of World War I, at least 10,000 soldiers die on the Austro-Italian front in the Dolomites as a result of avalanches. Many avalanches are deliberately triggered by the enemy. In the winter of 1916, the losses from avalanches and frostbite were higher than from the fighting (→  avalanche catastrophe of December 13, 1916 ).
  • 170 to 300 Russian prisoners of war and 10 to 80 Austrian soldiers died in an avalanche on the Vršič Pass (now Slovenia) in March 1916 .
  • March 1, 1910 - In Wellington, WA, USA, two trains were torn down by an avalanche, killing 96 people.
  • February 24, 1844 - In Neukirch in the Black Forest , the Königenhof is buried by an avalanche. 17 people die.
  • Avalanche year 1720 in Switzerland: around 300 deaths


In other phenomena, too, one speaks of avalanche-like processes if the processes are self-reinforcing . Like snow avalanches, ice avalanches or mudslides, these processes have common behavior types (“ universality ”, “ self-organization ”). Small causes that are difficult to control are sufficient to trigger such processes.

The Danish physicist Per Bak has put forward quantitative physical theories .

Similar material movements

See also


Austria has had its own set of technical rules since mid-December 2011, which summarizes the " state of the art in avalanche protection construction".

  • ONR 24805 - Permanent technical avalanche protection - designation and definitions as well as static and dynamic effects;
  • ONR 24806 - Permanent technical avalanche protection - dimensioning and structural design;
  • ONR 24807 - Permanent technical avalanche protection - monitoring and maintenance.


Web links

Wiktionary: Avalanche  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Avalanche  album with pictures, videos and audio files

Avalanche glossary

Avalanche research:

Avalanche danger:

Avalanche protection:

Avalanches and Law:

Individual evidence

  1. Patrick Nairz, Siegfried Sauermoser, Karl Kleemayer, Karl Gabl, Markus Stoffel: Avalanches: Origin and Effect . In: Handbook of Technical Avalanche Protection . Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim, Germany 2012, ISBN 978-3-433-60085-6 , p. 21-62 , doi : 10.1002 / 9783433600856.ch3 ( wiley.com [accessed January 15, 2020]).
  2. Walther von Wartburg: French Etymological Dictionary . A representation of the Gallo-Roman language. 5th volume. Zbinden, Basel 1978, p. 101 ff.
  3. a b Rosemarie Lühr (Head): Etymological Dictionary of Old High German. Volume V. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2014, p. 1215 f.
  4. a b Swiss Idioticon . Volume III. Huber, Frauenfeld 1895, Col. 1539 ff., Article Lauwelen ( digitized version ).
  5. Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological Dictionary of German. Akademie, Berlin 1989 and other editions, s. v.
  6. Werner Munter: 3 × 3 avalanches - risk management in winter sports. 4th, completely revised edition. Publishing house Pohl & Schellhammer, Garmisch-Partenkirchen 2009, p. 37.
  7. Visual inspection of the slope, observation of the existing snow drift , fresh avalanches or snow shifts on neighboring slopes in a similar exposure , cracks in the snow cover, etc.
  8. There are various methods for testing the snow cover: slip block test, compression test, extended column test, rivet test, etc.
  9. Alois Feusi: Dry ice shortage and prohibition of explosives , NZZ of January 17, 2014, accessed on November 6, 2014.
  10. Switzerland, not permitted in Austria.
  11. Example: Reduced danger zone ( memento from April 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) in Telfs below the Hohen Munde , BMLFUW Austria from August 21, 2014, accessed on November 6, 2014.
  12. a b Zermatt avalanche radar. Retrieved November 7, 2017 .
  13. Weissmies glacier monitoring. Retrieved November 7, 2017 .
  14. a b Long-term accident statistics. WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF , 2013, archived from the original on February 21, 2014 ; accessed on August 25, 2019 .
  15. Long survival in avalanches borders on miracles , ORF.at, April 13, 2015
  16. Sebastian Haag was at Mount Manaslu - “I left a dying woman behind to dig for buried subjects” , Focus, December 23, 2012.
  17. sz-online: Avalanche in Pakistan buried 135 people . In: SZ-Online . ( sz-online.de [accessed on June 28, 2018]).
  18. Hasnain Kazim, Islamabad: Avalanche accident in Pakistan: German experts help with the recovery of the corpses . In: Spiegel Online . April 10, 2012 ( spiegel.de [accessed June 28, 2018]).
  19. http://www.steinmandl.de/jamtal
  20. Snow and avalanche information Avalanche disaster in the Alps in 1954 - exactly 50 years ago. ( Memento from November 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) slf.ch
  21. Garmischer Tagblatt of February 4, 2020, "75 years ago - buried by history"
  22. 雪崩 . In: 世界 大 百科 事 典 第 2 版 at kotobank.jp. Hitachi Solutions, accessed May 24, 2012 (Japanese).
  23. Why Putin is traveling to Slovenia. In: diepresse.com. Retrieved December 15, 2017 .
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  25. Published by Austrian Standards