Summer doesn’t feel like the season for avalanches, however, Alpine snow can be dangerous at any time of the year.
On Sunday 13 June 2021, an avalanche near the Mauvoisin dam in the municipality of Val de Bagnes which contains Verbier, buried someone.
The avalanche occurred at 5pm at an altitude of around 3,400 metres, said the local police force. Another person at the scene contacted emergency services.
A search involving cantonal police, the local fire brigade, 3 Air Glaciers helicopters, avalanche dogs and a significant number of search personnel, failed to find the victim, a local resident aged 36.
The avalanche risk is exceptionally high this summer, according to experts. The large quantities of snow that fell over winter, combined with cold spring temperatures, means there are exceptional levels of summer snow at certain altitudes.
Conditions like these are seen perhaps only every 20 or 30 years, according to snow scientist Robert Bolognesi, who was interviewed by RTS.
These avalanches create very hard compact sediments that make it very to dig and find victims, according to Bolognesi.
Around 15% of avalanche deaths occur during the summer season, a figure some may not expect to be so high.
The best way to avoid summer avalanches is to choose trails where there is no snow, typically south facing slopes or trails at lower altitudes.
This summer’s avalanche deaths will only add to Switzerland’s unusually high avalanche death toll over the recent winter season. Up until the end of March 2021, 27 people had died in avalanches in Switzerland, 50% more than an average season.