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Wyssen Avalanche Control: Snow Problem

Mar 20, 2017

Caution AvalancheFor skiers it’s the most wonderful time of the year. When the clouds descend and every inch of green and grey is coated in a soft, thick, freezing cold blanket which will stay for another two or three months. When the whirr of chairlifts and the buzz of toddlers waddling around in all-in-ones fills the air, and restaurateurs add an extra zero to the cost of a chocolat chaud. But behind these peaceful scenes there is a hive of activity going on; resort workers rush to spread snow cover evenly, they constantly check weather reports to make sure dangerous slopes are not open, and drop dynamite from helicopters in an effort to prevent serious avalanches occurring. Despite the valiant efforts of resort staff, meteorologists and emergency response teams, deadly avalanches do still occur, and if the avalanches this season in Italy and France, killing 33 people in total, are anything to go by, there is little we can do to prevent this force of nature from wreaking havoc. As our presence on the world’s most iconic mountain ranges grows, and artificial snow technology opens up more skiable areas than ever before, the sense of security we have on the slopes is growing, but this is not necessarily grounded in reality.

Please Shred Responsibly

Nearly half of all avalanche deaths occur when conditions are ‘considerable’, not ‘high’ or even ‘extreme’. This data suggests that there is an issue with attitudes about avalanches – if the risk is deemed low enough some skiers will quite happily go out even when there is a significant chance of avalanche. This of course is not merely a personal risk, and the avalanche in Tignes last week which killed three family members and an experienced instructor happened on lower slopes, and is thought to have been caused by skiers higher up the mountain. This is especially concerning given that 74% of all human caused avalanches occur on slopes between 34-45 degrees – otherwise known as the ‘fun zone’ – which are a target for those thrill seekers whose quest for fresh, steep powder is never ending. When risk is ‘considerable’ avalanches can be triggered by just a single skier, and in this range of steepness the speed and scope of an avalanche can be devastating, covering the whole of a mountain face at speeds of over 150km/h.

Devices to Depend On

Snow SkierIn the Alps, arguably the most snow-sure region in the world, a spell of some of the heaviest snowfall of a comparatively barren season means avalanche risk is now higher than at any point since the start of the season – and more snow means more people venturing off-piste to be the first to ski elusive un-touched territory. It seems like our love of the mountain will not abate, even with the risks that come with more snow and expanding resorts, but in the worst case scenario there are tried and tested rescue devices to save the unlucky few to be caught by an avalanche. These range from transceivers which help to locate buried victims, to backpack airbags which aim to stop people being buried in the first place, and the use of these devices dramatically increases your chance of survival. But far more effective than these emergency remedies are reliable prediction of avalanches, prevention without having to dangle from a helicopter with a stick of dynamite, and real-time emergency alerts when an avalanche is on its way.

Secure Sensor Signal Makes For Safer Skiing

This kind of preventative action may seem to fly in the face of rugged Alpine locals, but as ski resorts expand further they become more and more reliant on technology to keep things running smoothly. Powered by PodM2M’s remote connectivity, Wyssen’s predictive software uses meteorological and sensor data to map the build-up of snow on the mountain and automatically set off charges which release a precise amount of snow from the slopes, preventing large, dangerous buildups, and eliminating the risk of accidentally causing a disaster with a badly placed dynamite. Their technology can also detect precisely when and where an avalanche has started, and send real-time alerts to rescue teams, emergency responders and even civilians with access to the app, helping to prevent unnecessary injuries and giving a heads up to those that need it most. This can be restricted to one area that is set to be blasted, expanded across a whole avalanche path, or can monitor a whole valley from one central location. This prediction and comprehensive monitoring requires an unfailing internet connection in the remotest of areas, and PodM2M’s no-single-point-of-failure provides this, guaranteeing the best possible signal without ‘steering’ a device to one network. With this level of connection security Wyssen devices are able to pinpoint exactly where to drop charges to avoid dangerous snow buildup, and can respond immediately when an avalanche does arrive. While skiing will never be completely risk-free (and why would you want it to be?) Wyssen’s avalanche control systems are a force to be reckoned with, and when paired with PodM2M’s SIM cards, their technology helps to keep you on the slopes without fear of being caught out, and giving you the confidence to try that huge mogul field that tempted you all week.