So what does...
...a snow and avalanche researcher do in summer?
Researchers employed by the WSL – the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos – spend a busy winter taking GPS measurements, laser scans and other remote sensor readings of the results of avalanches, in order to answer questions like „Where did it start?“, „What route did it take?“, „How long did it take to reach the valley?“, or „How far did it get?“ They then develop tools designed to create protective measures, for use in the affected areas of Switzerland and elsewhere.
A job for lovers of winter weather: „We are often out in the cold, and most of us love snowy landscapes more than we do verdant Alpine meadows“, says Yves Bühler (33), a scientist employed by the SLF.
But what do these specialists do when the snow has melted and the season’s last avalanche is long gone? Anyone who assumes that they spend summer relaxing on the banks of Lake Davos would be wrong. In fact, avalanche experts do everything but relax during the snow-free periods of the year. „We evaluate the winter’s data, create computer models and lab simulations, and draw up reports“, explains Mr Bühler. The research field of these Davos-based scientists is no longer limited to the great white menace. „We also carry out research into landslides and rockfalls. Our organisation has expanded its research activities to cover other natural hazards that are typical of the Alps.“ In its summer job of investigating mudslides and rockfalls, the institute benefits from experience in the field of avalanches. „We have developed a computer model that can be applied, with appropriate tweaks, to all three processes“, explains Mr Bühler.
No missing of dates
Despite having plenty to do after the snow has melted, most of the SLF’s staff book their holidays during the warmer months. „I could in theory take my holidays in winter, but I’d miss out on interesting avalancherelated data.“ says Mr Bühler, who normally takes his holidays in spring for this reason. „Pickings are poor at this time of year, while the lowlands are all in full bloom.“ This native of Winterthur always ends up taking something of a busman's holiday when he finally gets to ski himself. „Out on the slopes, my attention is quickly drawn to the characteristics of the surrounding country and its snow. So yes, I do find it a bit difficult to get away from the office ...“