The initiative for an avalanche forecast that is uniform throughout the Alps is committed to a uniform avalanche forecast throughout the Alps and would like to point out the importance of cross-regional cooperation in avalanche warning.

There are three of us on the three countries in the Silvretta. One of us in Tyrol, one in Vorarlberg, one in Graubünden. We are located in three different administrative zones in two different countries. Depending on the direction in which we are leaving, a different avalanche forecast applies. The SLF in Switzerland speaks of a danger level one, the avalanche warning service Vorarlberg of a two and the Tyroleans even give a three.

A reason for these deviations is not apparent, because the meteorological conditions in the vicinity of this border mountain were almost identical throughout the winter.

Nature is limitless

The mountains have no administrative boundaries. The same applies to the snow and avalanche situation. For the Alps, however, from 17 avalanche warning services published different avalanche forecasts. The first challenge is to find the right website. Since the avalanche forecasts are presented differently, each web page requires an introductory and familiarization phase.

Standardized and interpreted differently subjectively

The European avalanche warning services are based on the standardized European hazard scale, However, the scale is used more or less differently. Practice always shows striking differences. The preparation of the forecasts based on the information pyramid is also not handled uniformly. In the end, winter athletes are often confronted with contradictory information in the same circumstances.

That's how she looks future vision the IFALP

That is why IFALP has a vision. initiators wünschen there is a consistent, as far as possible homogeneous and multilingual avalanche forecast for the entire Alpine region. Identical representation, no serious differences in the use of the danger levels, without man-made, but only with natural ones border.

And this could look like this:

Initiative for a uniform avalanche forecast throughout the Alps
Fig. 1: Avalanche forecast from March 14, 2019 for the entire Alpine region.

Fig. 1: Avalanche forecast from March 14, 2019 for the entire Alpine region

  • The best possible alignment of the avalanche forecast to the needs of snow athletes, because they represent the vast majority of avalanche victims
  • Consistent use of the security level. A work by Techel et. al. (2018) shows that there is a need for action here, since different warning services often assign different levels of danger in a similar situation.
  • Uniform and complete use of all elements from the information pyramid.
  • Multilingualism: At least one local language plus English.
  • Same issue time in the evening (17pm) with optional update in the morning. The evening report has proven itself organizationally for snow sports enthusiasts.
  • Uniform representation on a dynamic map that spans the entire Alpine arch.
  • Similar size of the warning regions, which can then be flexibly aggregated into warning areas (see large differences in the map of FIG. 1).
  • Similar processes in generating the avalanche forecast. Only comparable processes can lead to comparable results.
Initiative for a uniform avalanche forecast throughout the Alps
Fig. 2: Information pyramid: the most important thing comes first. (© EAWS)

If it were easy, it would not be a challenge

We are very grateful to the avalanche warning services for the meticulous work they do every day. We are also aware that tremendous efforts have been made in the past to move closer together. We also know how difficult cross-border cooperation is. However, we also believe that there is still a great need for action.

Where there is a will, there is a way

All of these are not illusions. That shows the project of the Euregio avalanche reports in Tyrol (Austria), South Tyrol and Trentino (both Italy). This common avalanche forecast is issued daily in three languages ​​and represents a major step forward. Proof that cross-border cooperation works - as long as all actors from politics to avalanche warning pull together.

Hence the initiative for a uniform avalanche forecast across the Alps. IFALP would like to point out the importance of working together on avalanche warnings. Because even a single human life saved in this way is worth more than all the resources invested.

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Credits: Cover picture IFALP