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Zermatt village vs avalanche

Discussion in 'Snow Talk' started by Dos, Aug 27, 2014.

  1. Dos

    Dos One of Us

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    I've come across some photos of Zermatt valley and was wondering how avalanche situation around the village is like.

    The slope immediately next to the village is quite steep -- steep enough for avalanche to occur, I think? If an avalanche was to occur, the village would be destroyed?

    Can someone enlighten me please?

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Balsta

    Balsta One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'm pretty sure that all the buildings are made out of old school desks.

    DUCK & COVER!!
    [​IMG]

    Seriously though, it does look steep on the left side of that photo, it would be interesting to know the answer to you question.
     
  3. skinavy

    skinavy One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Given Switzerland has one of the best avalanche research departments in the world I would say they probably have a pretty good handle on how to protect the village.
     
  4. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    I've been in Zermatt for two slides.

    One was skier triggered off piste, slide path was also onto an intermediate piste and a walking trail.
    One death among the group of 3 skiers who triggered it. But it did hit people on the piste and trail. Well away from the village.

    The other slid and took out the rail and roads into and out of Zermatt.
    24hrs and the only way in or out was a heli.
    All pistes were closed that day also, due to Avie risk.
    Everyone was in the bars and restaurants - all day. Way hey!!

    The pistes don't really run all the way into the village - there is access trails yes, but not pistes like you might imagine - they're all higher up. Some of the surrounding mountains look fairly ominous and are very steep, but you can see Avie fences and structures built in strategic places to interrupt movement that obviously happens frequently.

    And then there is the controlled bombing...
     
  5. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    The blasting was out of control when I was there for a few weeks ages ago, also a myriad of fences and stuff. Being Switzerland, they would have good details on all known slide paths and have appropriate restrictions in place for buildings. Hell, even the french have that sorted
     
  6. Edgecrusher

    Edgecrusher Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Well, after that slide at Montroc a while back...

    I remember seeing all the avy fences above Pontresina on some remote slopes. Zermatt is no different
     
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  7. Dos

    Dos One of Us

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    I zoomed in on the left side mountain and found these fences near the top. Many more of them are also present at several places all the way to the village. From Terrain mode on Google Map, it shows that these fences guide the slide down to a gully, presumably called triftbach, seen as long patches of tree in the above photo.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    Hey @Dos if you're interested in this stuff, google up the montroc incident
     
  9. benchives

    benchives I forgot how to ski Ski Pass: Gold

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    Fences wverywhere in that valley.
     
  10. Dos

    Dos One of Us

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    Thanks piolet. Will check it out.
     
  11. WaitAwhile

    WaitAwhile One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    There is probably hundreds and hundreds of Villages throughout France,Italy and Switzerland built around or near steep slopes in the Alpine areas,most would have passed the test of time, many have wooden structures built around dangerous slopes to help keep the snow stable.
     
  12. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    Thank edge :)
     
  13. Legion

    Legion One of Us

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    I don't understand what pistes have to do with it.

    Dos' point is valid. Those slopes on the looker's left are more than enough to accumulate more than enough snow to take out multiple buildings. Who cares what's happening above in terms of fences. Presumably the risk is statistically low enough that they decided to build there.
     
  14. dawooduck

    dawooduck relaxed and comfortable Ski Pass: Gold

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    They grow special grass with a 4 pointed serrated leaf which holds the snow in place. They also run a lot of cows in summer that leave a dimpled surface in the grasses which also assists in snow retention.
     
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  15. Dos

    Dos One of Us

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    Topographic Map of Zermatt is like this. Although they have many fences up high between 2300m to 2800m to redirect the flow, there is still 500m vertical of steep terrain below 2300m down to the village at 1800m.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Legs Akimbo

    Legs Akimbo Grumblebum Ski Pass: Gold

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    On the top photo I can see a few white lines in the meadows immediately above the village. I don't know what they are, but they could be barriers of some sort.
     
  17. Dos

    Dos One of Us

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    Roads.
     
  18. Dos

    Dos One of Us

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    Looking from the opposite direction.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Dos

    Dos One of Us

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    From the above photo, I kind of see how the village is protected.
     
  20. Zimboo

    Zimboo A Local

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    We spent a week there some years ago. Amazing skiing, beautiful village - a real must for the travelling skier/boarder. However, my wife felt uncomfortable / claustrophobic in the village the whole time. The first pic really shows how the village sits so tightly in the very thin valley. Amazing place!!!!!!
     
  21. Legs Akimbo

    Legs Akimbo Grumblebum Ski Pass: Gold

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    Probably
     
  22. Chester

    Chester One of Us

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    I'm pretty sure Zermatt wouldn't be the only village in the Alps that nestles at the base of a tight/steep valley.

    For example ...

    [​IMG]
     
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  23. oreo

    oreo One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    You'll notice that the path you're looking down:
    1) Veers off to the left which means that the debris is directed slightly to the lookers left of town; and
    2) Their using regular avalanche control on that slope to reduce the likelihood of a large avalanche (there is a gazex unit right in front of you there).
     
  24. benchives

    benchives I forgot how to ski Ski Pass: Gold

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    Where is that?
     
  25. Chester

    Chester One of Us

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    Yep, I agree with what you're saying. The side that you're referring to is the ski resort, and there's a lot of avalanche control that goes on. But the village has been around a lot longer than the ski resort, hence the avalanche control has not always existed. Plus you're not entirely correct about that particular gully, the photo doesn't show that it straightens up again towards the village. However, you will notice that the village has been built away from that side of the mountain there is considerable vacant flat land between the mountain and the village, so that would have been their main safety mechanism before the ski resort was built. But there's also a lot of steep mountain on the other side of the valley. Again, the picture doesn't tell the total story. My point is that there are many villages in the Alps at the base of tight valleys, and they're are always going to be exposed to risk no matter what precautions are taken. Many years ago an avalanche in a nearby village buried houses and a small hotel, with quite a few casualties. Luckily it was a lowly populated part of the village, but then again, the fact that it's lowly populated may be for that exact reason. The locals say that it was a freak occurance, but if you're one of the victims, or a member of their family or one of their friends, then IMO one freak occurance is one too many.
     
    #25 Chester, Aug 28, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2014
  26. Chester

    Chester One of Us

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    Bonneval sur Arc. The village is at 1,800m, and I believe it's the highest 'non purpose built' village in France.
     
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  27. Chester

    Chester One of Us

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    Just to add another perspective to this thread, I suppose living in a place that has realistic avalanche risk is not too dissimilar to living somewhere that is subject to earthquake, bushfire, cyclone etc.
     
  28. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Those snow fences up high are there to retain snow on an exposed slope that normally would struggle to build snowpack due to wind scouring. They would give a certain degree of mechanical connection between snowpack and ground so that could be considered an improvement in slide risk. More importantly, they have been placed so as to even out the snow distribution by allowing snow to settle in places it normally would not, and thus making that snow unavailable to create much larger wind slabs in sheltered locations further downwind. So the fencing does reduce avalanche risk to some extent.

    As others have surmised though, many alpine villages have learnt the hard way over the centuries where the safe building sites are.
     
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  29. Draizuh

    Draizuh One of Us

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    I used to live in a wee village called Zug just outside of Lech am Arlberg. I was staying in a place in St Anton and the owner was actually slightly paralysed in the big avalanche off the rendl in '88.
    But i was living in Zug with a local dog handler who used to respond to avalanches. He gave me a fair insight into what goes on to control the avalanche risk in a alpine village.
    1. if they say dont ski in the trees, dont ski in the trees. if you damage the smaller trees when they are in the snow pack it stunts growth and they arent able to break up the large gladed areas where snow can collect.
    2. even if you cant see the avalanche protection, in the form of barriers etc its probably still there. They use gazex systems to release small slides, Cable explosive delivery systems are fairly common too. There was one in Zug which was apparently a small unit loaded with explosives at all times which could be remotely detonated from the village below.

    If you are nerdy about such things.. http://www.doppelmayr.com/en/products/avalanche-blasting-ropeway/

    3. Live/stay next to the church. The Church is the safest spot in a alpine village.
     
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  30. teckel

    teckel Not a Loser Ski Pass: Gold

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    I have a Swiss friend who holidays in Zermatt every year. I could ask him if you wish.
     
  31. Legion

    Legion One of Us

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    I spent a week in Zug in probably '96. I had to do a snowboard course and it was based in a nice 5* hotel there.
     
  32. Dos

    Dos One of Us

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    Yes, please.
     
  33. Draizuh

    Draizuh One of Us

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    Would have been hotel Rote Wand most likely! i lived opposite it in Haus Furka :)