What's triggering avalanches?

When and where the next avalanche will happen is hard to predict. In a special cold laboratory in Davos, researchers simulate the effects of wind on fresh snow to better understand the mechanisms that trigger avalanches.

This content was published on March 16, 2023

For centuries, avalanches have posed a threat to mountain farmers and their livestock. With the development of winter tourism, roads, railways and hydropower plants, the interest in avalanche research and protective measures has grown.

The origins of the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF)External link date back to 1936, when a small group of researchers moved into a snow lab on the Weissfluhjoch summit above Davos. Today the institute monitors the conditions of avalanches throughout Switzerland, investigates the effects of climate change on snow cover and operates the national avalanche warning service.

Researchers at the SLF study how snow is built up and how it changes under various conditions, how avalanches occur and how they move over terrain. In this episode of "Exploring science in Davos" we take you inside the institute’s cold chambers.

External Content

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Weekly top stories

Keep up to date with the best stories from SWI on a range of topics, straight into your mailbox.


The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.