High avalanche death toll during snowy Swiss winter

Rescuers search for avalanche victims in Switzerland. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Twice as many people were caught up in Swiss avalanches last winter, which resulted in a higher rate of deaths than in previous years.

This content was published on March 31, 2021 - 14:30

By March 30, 27 avalanche fatalities had been recorded among 215 incidents of people being swept away. The average number of fatalities in other years is 18.

This compares to a 60-year low of just five deaths recorded in the winter of 2019/2020, according to the Institute for Snow and Avalanche ResearchExternal link (SLF).

Last winter’s excess of fatalities was caused by above average snowfall, particularly at lower regions below 2,000 metres. Heavy snowfall in alpine regions started earlier than usual and the authorities had to issue several avalanche warnings, particularly in January.

Around 2,000 people have lost their lives in avalanches in Switzerland since records began in 1936. The number has fallen in recent years, but SLF warns that people who ski off-piste are putting themselves at increased risk.

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