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Raphy Troillet, Lourtier (VS)

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  • Married with two children
  • Trained carpenter, patroller in the Verbier ski area, mountain guide
  • SLF observer since 2014

As an observer, what is it exactly that you report?

In the morning, I take snow measurements, record the weather and send the data to the SLF. During the day, I carry out observations (snow profiles, avalanches) in the field and then send that information too.

How did you become an SLF observer?

My predecessor also worked in the Verbier mountain patrol service and I was his stand-in. When he left his job in 2014, I took over his role as an observer.

What do you like about this task?

I like understanding all about snow and avalanches. It's fascinating to try and understand why and where avalanches occur and why sometimes they don't happen.

Which aspects are less enjoyable/do you find tiresome?

When I have to do a lot of digging for a snow profile.

What does it mean to you to be an observer?

It allows me to track changes in the snowpack throughout the winter.

How easy is it to combine this task with your other work?

I'm out in the field all day for my job, so as an observer it's easier for me to assess the avalanche risk when I'm on ski touring trips.

What has been your most memorable experience relating to snow and avalanches?

In February 1999, five huge avalanches came down the Torrent de Lourtier onto my village in just three days. The protection dams were overwhelmed. Fortunately there were no casualties, but a lot of damage was done. That's the only time I've seen five very large avalanches hit the same place in such a short time.

What is the personal connection between you and snow?


How do you like to spend your evenings/leisure time?

I enjoy walking and enduro motorcycling.

Which is your favourite place in the world?

Valais and its mountains, especially Grand Combin, which is the finest of the lot as far as I'm concerned.

And your favourite season?

Winter. It's too hot in summer.

Is there anything you couldn't live without?

Chocolate and dried meat.

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

It's a great opportunity to thank our predecessors, the pioneers whose research means we understand snow better and can protect our villages more effectively. The snow is the same as it was 75 years ago, but thanks to them we now have a better understanding of avalanches.