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Paul-André ('Paulon') Massy, Grimentz (VS)

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  • Married with no children
  • Retired, former member of the mountain patrol service and land registrar for the commune of Anniviers
  • SLF observer since 1973

What do you measure or what exactly do you have to report on as an observer?

Every day I carry out observations and take measurements on the snowfield right outside my house. I take snow measurements (depth of fresh snow, snow depth, water equivalent of fresh snow if more than 10 cm has fallen, penetration of ram penetrometer) and perform observations (snow limit, rain/snow limit, avalanches, and so on).

How did you become an observer?

My father became an observer in 1956, and I took over when he died in 1973. I don't know how he became an observer, but I remember that back then the numerical data were telegraphed to the SLF every morning. Their number was 110.

What do you like about working as an observer?

I'm an avid record-keeper anyway, so I'd keep records even if I wasn't an observer. That's why I like the job so much.

What don't you like about it?

Nothing, really. What is a bit sad is that more and more of our work is being taken over by automated stations, so we have fewer and fewer parameters to report.

How well are you able to combine your work as an observer with other activities (work, hobbies, etc.)? 

My observation work only takes me 10 minutes in the morning, so I have no problem combining it with my day-to-day life. In fact, I think any volunteer could do the job well.

What's been your most memorable experience of snow and avalanches?

I was buried by an avalanche in 1984 while working as a patroller during a controlled explosion. Fortunately, I was rescued by the colleague who was with me. I was injured, but luckily there were no serious consequences.

What got you interested in snow?

Living in the mountains, we see snow almost every month, so it's a big part of our lives, whether we like it or not.

What do you like to do after work/in your spare time?

I love skiing and do it regularly, but I avoid the pistes at busy times such as Christmas. I go to Ticino for Christmas. I no longer do ski touring because I have problems with my knees, which makes off-piste skiing difficult. Besides skiing, I enjoy curling. We have a small curling club here in Grimentz, but we don't have a rink in the village, so we play in Sierre every week.

What's your favourite place in the world and why?

I was born in Grimentz and have lived here all my life. Switzerland is still my favourite place: it's peaceful and safe and you can get on with your work quietly. I like Italy too, and I often spend my holidays in Ticino, where my in-laws live.

What's your favourite season?

I like all the seasons.

Is there anything you couldn't live without?

My wife!

The SLF is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the avalanche bulletin. What does that mean to you?

The SLF is a wonderful institution. It's done a lot of good for the world of amateur sport, and has developed an efficient system that helps keep people safe. It's good to have an organisation like that which you can trust.