Avalanche Near Saas Fee, Switzerland

September 29, 2009

Saas Fee avalanche

Photographer: Kiran Chakravarti
Summary Author: Kiran Chakravarti; Jim Foster

The above photo showing a recent avalanche in the Alps, near Saas Fee, Switzerland, was taken on July 12, 2009. I was in the Saas Valley on a geography field trip with classmates from my university, the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K. The Saas valley is defined by 13 peaks having elevations over 4000 m (13,120 ft). Just a few weeks before we arrived, this huge mass of snow cascaded down the hillside. Since I had been here the previous year, it was quite a shock to see how the avalanche altered the landscape. Note that the flattened trees are aligned in similar positions. Though they’re associated with abrupt, mountainous terrain, most avalanches occur on slopes having steepness between about 30 degrees and 60 degrees. Leeward and shadowed mountainous slopes tend to have a greater incidence of avalanches than do exposed slopes on the windward side of mountain ranges.