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Dealing with avalanche danger to be recognised by UNESCO as part of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Swiss government is today applying to UNESCO for recognition of the process of dealing with avalanche danger. If approved, the custom will be inscribed in the Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. As one of the nomination sponsors, the SLF has played a part in preparing the dossier submitted with the application, under the auspices of the Swiss Federal Office of Culture.

Grosse Lawine im Versuchsgelände des SLF im Vallée de la Sionne
Large avalanche triggered on 8.3.2017 at the SLF test site in Vallée de la Sionne (Arbaz district). Photo: Yann Gross

Responding to and dealing with avalanche danger is a centuries-old practice in Switzerland. Ever since humankind first settled down in, traversed, or merely visited the Alps for recreation, avalanches have posed a threat. The long-standing necessity to ascertain how to best protect people against this danger has remained an important subject to the present day.

In 2014 the federal government decided to nominate the process of dealing with avalanche danger, together with seven other living heritage practices, for inscription in the UNESCO Representative List of our Intangible Cultural Heritage. In submitting the application, Switzerland is seeking to draw the attention of the national and international community to its rich cultural traditions.

For the last two years this application has been in preparation by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, together with representatives of Canton Valais, the SLF, the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC), the Swiss Mountain Guide Association (SBV), and the National Environmental Agency (BAFU). A number of Austrian organisations and institutions were also involved. This is the first time that Switzerland has submitted an application for inscription in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage together with another country.

UNESCO will then evaluate the application in a procedure spanning several months. Presumably in November 2018 it will be decided whether to inscribe the process of managing avalanche danger in the list.

Further information

Contacts / information

Questions concerning the application and inscription procedure
Questions concerning the management of avalanche danger
  • Julia Wessels, Communications, WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF+41 81 417 02 86, wessels@slf.ch
  • Thomas Antonietti, Intangible Cultural Heritage Official of Canton Valais, +41 79 796 48 86, thomas.antonietti@admin.vs.ch