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On the move with the avalanche warning team

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16.03.2023  |  Jochen Bettzieche  |  News SLF


Avalanche warners and observers painstakingly examine snow profiles to analyse the structure of the snowpack. The results of the profile recordings are used every day to assess the avalanche danger. The observers record several hundred profiles in the course of a winter. A picture series shows the time-consuming work that provides an important data basis for avalanche warnings.

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Image 1 of 13
Early morning, most of the hotel guests are still having breakfast. Mirjam Eberli and Simon Grüter of the Avalanche Warning Service are looking for a suitable spot for a snow profile off the slopes of the Parsenn ski area in Davos. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
Image 2 of 13
In the beginning there is shovelling. Eberli and Grüter dig their way to a stand. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
Image 3 of 13
Grüter tares the ram penetrometer so that he can ram it exactly vertically into the snowpack. In this way he gradually discovers how well the snowpack is compacted. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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After a further shovel insertion down to the ground, Grüter runs his index finger along the snow wall to identify layer boundaries and weak layers ... (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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... while Eberli records the results. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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At the same time, the grid map cools in the snow. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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Grüter uses a magnifying glass and grid to determine the shape and size of the snow crystals. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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Then the two unpack their saws to cut blocks out of the snow. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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With several increasingly firm blows on the shovel blade, Grüter checks whether a weak layer is breaking, and if so, under which load. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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Finally, the staff members of the avalanche warning service uses a thin steel cable, ... (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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... and use it to separate a large block, the rutschblock. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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Eberli puts on her ski equipment and jumps harder and harder on it, ... (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)
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... until part of the block breaks and slides off. (Photo: Jochen Bettzieche / SLF)