10.12.2020 | Observer portraits
- Lives with his girlfriend in his family home, which was built in 1546
- In wintertime a safety officer for the Lukmanier Pass, and in the summer a trail builder for mountain bikers and hikers
- SLF observer since 2007
As an observer, what is it exactly that you report?
As a regional observer, I file daily reports containing a wealth of information relating to altitudes and aspects. The content can include details about the new snow, snowfall level and structure of the snowpack surface. I also report observations of both natural avalanches and avalanches released by explosives. Based on the data, I draw conclusions about the snow and avalanche situation, and predict possible developments. Twice a month I generate a slope profile and perform a rutschblock test.
How did you become an SLF observer?
It all started from my time as a contented reservist in the avalanche unit of the Swiss Armed Forces. I enjoyed the work I was doing so much – which had similarities to the role of an SLF observer – that it was something I wanted to continue after completing my military service. I therefore decided to attend an SLF observer course, which enabled me to keep up to date as well.
What do you like about this task?
I enjoy spending time outdoors and I love the feeling of being part of something bigger. The avalanche bulletin is an effective and useful tool provided by the SLF.
Which aspects are less enjoyable/do you find tiresome?
Finding the time for snow profiling towards the middle or end of a month can sometimes be difficult because of other plans. There's no choice but to find a solution, but it's not a huge burden.
What does it mean to you to be an observer?
For me, it's a pleasure and an honour to contribute to such a fine product as the avalanche bulletin. Although it's difficult to make comparisons, when visiting other countries I realise how good the avalanche warning provisions are in Switzerland. I'm entrusted with reporting the correct information – and I take my task seriously.
How easy is it to combine this task with your other work?
Since the winter of 2008/2009 I have been working as a safety officer with responsibility for the winter opening of the Lukmanier Pass on the Ticino side. This work complements my other role as an SLF observer because spending time outdoors in the snow every day is a major part of both jobs.
What has been your most memorable experience relating to snow and avalanches?
Every destructive avalanche that reaches the road demonstrates snow's brutal force. It makes a big impression on me every time. Gliding avalanches, which are an increasingly challenging problem, also bear witness to changes in the environment relating to the climate and the snowfall level, for example, and to the fragility of the natural world. I have actually triggered avalanches myself, but luckily without being buried. It's an experience I have learned from.
What is the personal connection between you and snow?
Certainly my passion for ski touring, as well as my work of course.
How do you like to spend your evenings/leisure time?
I have the good fortune to be able to combine work with my passion, hobby and sport. In other words, I work while engaging in leisure pursuits, and enjoy recreation while working.
Which is your favourite place in the world?
The Lukmanier Pass is naturally very dear to me. The high desert plateau in Chile and volcanoes are also special places. But I have fond memories of many other destinations, including New York. Before visiting the city for the first time, I had never expected to enjoy it. Then I discovered that a big city is there to be explored, just like a huge forest.
And your favourite season?
I like all of the seasons. A winter with sufficient snow, low temperatures and no wind would be ideal and could last for six months as far as I'm concerned.
Is there anything you couldn't live without?
Not spending time outdoors would be unbearable.
The SLF is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the avalanche bulletin. What does that mean to you?
It fills me with pride and satisfaction to be playing a role in this piece of history. And the avalanche bulletin of the SLF is a good calling card.