Verbier working to reduce avalanche fatalities

26th January 2022, by Abi Butcher

Verbier is part od a pilot scheme that hopes to increase avalanche prevention

Verbier is part od a pilot scheme that hopes to increase avalanche prevention

The Swiss ski resort of Verbier, known for its challenging off-piste, is taking part in a pilot scheme that is hoped will strengthen avalanche prevention.

The scheme, for which Verbier is acting as a test resort, includes a free online quiz for people to test and improve their skills in avalanche danger management, increased signage around the resort that is hoped will act as a deterrent for risk-takers, and the broadcast of prevention messages aimed at freeriders going out on dangerous days.

It is well documented that the European five-level avalanche danger scale is not always heeded, nor interpreted well by skiers, particularly when the risk is 3 or 4 — which mean ‘considerable’ or ‘high’ risk of avalanche, respectively. Sadly, some 65 per cent of fatal accidents occur when the level 3 — or ‘considerable/marked’ — is announced on Switzerland’s alert issued twice daily (read more about the alerts and how they are set here), making it the most critical for skiers and snowboarders heading off-piste. Experts say that while 3 seems to be the middle of the scale, especially for inexperienced skiers, in reality the ‘considerable’ risk should be taken far more seriously.

Sadly, last season was a bad one for avalanches in Valais, with 11 people being swept away by slides in the area, prompting officials to work together to try to reduce the number of fatalities each year.

Verbier is working with, among others, the Valais Cantonal Police, rescue organisation, the Swiss association of Mountain Guides and the WLS Institute for the Study of Snow and Avalanches, the tourism sector and young.

Verbier also offers a number of safety workshops, avalanche-controlled off-piste itineraries and safety academies to try to increase skiers’ knowledge in the mountains.

To check your avalanche skills, visit

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