Could managing avalanche risk be recognised globally?

An avalanche comes down following a controlled test explosion, in Anzere, near Sion, on March 8 Keystone

Switzerland, along with Austria, has officially submitted “managing avalanche danger” to be awarded special status at UNESCO.

This content was published on April 1, 2017 minutes and agencies/ilj

It is the third Swiss candidacy for the “Intangible Cultural Heritage” External linklist managed by the Paris-based United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCOExternal link).

The list seeks to protect “forms of expression that testify to the diversity of intangible heritage and raises awareness of its importance” such as traditions or living expressions handed down over the generations. Included is knowledge and practices concerning nature.

“The collective threat situation through avalanches has led to a common and identity-forging management of this natural danger in Switzerland and Austria,” said the Swiss Federal Office of Culture statementExternal link announcing the candidacy on Friday.

“A large and informal body of knowledge has arisen from this, which has been passed on down the generations. This traditional knowledge is being constantly developed, in that historic know-how is combined with the most modern technologies.”

The culture office has drawn up the proposal in conjunction with representatives from canton Valais, the Swiss Alpine Club, the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, the Swiss Mountain Guide Association and Federal Office for the Environment, as well as various Austrian associations and institutions.

It is the first time that Switzerland has submitted a candidacy for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage with another country.


UNESCO should decide by November 2018 whether to include the Austro-Swiss proposal on the list.

In 2014, the Swiss government put forward eight proposalsExternal link. Last December it was announced that the Swiss town of Vevey’s Fête des Vignerons would be added to list – the first Swiss admission to the UN’s intangible cultural heritage sites.

UNESCO will decide in December 2017 whether Basel Carnival should be added. 

Switzerland is currently home to 12 UNESCO World Heritage sitesExternal link – nine cultural and three natural – including the Lavaux vineyards, St Gallen Abbey and Bern Old Town.

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