Avalanche risk in Swedish mountains

The risk of avalanches in the Swedish mountains was raised on Saturday to two on the five-grade scale. While spontaneous avalanches are still unlikely, careless skiers can cause a problem.

“People should take the warning very seriously and can assume that somewhere in the Swedish mountains a skier is going to set off an avalanche,” said Stefan Mårtensson, an avalanche expert at the Swedish Ski-lift Operators’ Organisation.

At eight of eleven open ski areas controlled by the organisation the avalanche risk now stands at two, while in Bydalsfjällen it has been raised to three.

In Dundret and at Kittelfjäll the risk remained at one.

In contrast to many other countries, it is the local ski-lift operators who determine the avalanche risk in Sweden, not an overarching authority. That means that the warning is only relevant within the controlled area and that the risk is probably higher outside the ski areas.

“It’s very important to listen to those who know the area before you go out. Obviously it’s safest to stick to the pistes,” said Mårtensson.

Whether or not the avalanche risk will increase further is hard to determine, even if the forecast is for more snow in the coming days, since many factors combine to create avalanches.

A lot of snow in combination with strong winds and variable temperatures will increase the risk of avalanches. But even older snow layers can suddenly give way if there are weaknesses in the top crust.

“It’s very hard to predict the avalanche risk and there are considerable local variations,” said Stefan Mårtensson.

TT/The Local