Winter of Terror

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Clearing the road from Zernez to Brail
Ruined hamlet Lü Daint in the Val Müstair

The Winter of Terror was a three-month period during the winter of 1950–1951 during which an unprecedented number of avalanches took place in the Alps along the Austria–Switzerland border.[1][2] The series of 649 avalanches killed over 265 people and caused large amounts of damage to residential and other human-made structures.[3][unreliable source?]

Damage and casualties[edit]

Austria suffered the most damage and loss of human life with 135 killed and many villages destroyed.[4] Thousands of acres of economically valuable forest in both Austria and Switzerland, were also damaged during the period.[2]

The Valais canton of Switzerland suffered 92 human deaths, approximately 500 cattle deaths, and destruction of 900 human-made structures. As in Austria, economically important forests were also damaged during the period.[5]

The Swiss town of Andermatt in the Adula Alps was hit by six avalanches within a 60-minute period, resulting in 13 deaths.[6]


The period is thought to have been the result of atypical weather conditions in the Alps: high precipitation due to the meeting of an Atlantic warm front with a polar cold front resulted in 3–4.5 metres of snow being deposited in a two- to three-day period. More than 600 buildings were destroyed and over 40,000 people were buried under snow.[5]


  1. ^ Williams, Florence (4 December 2005). "Look Out Below". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b "Deadliest Avalanches In History". WorldAtlas. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  3. ^ "Winter of Terror (1950-51): 259 Avalanche Deaths in the Alps".
  4. ^ Rapp, Irene (12 December 2010). "180.000 Daten für mehr Sicherheit". (in German). Innsbruck, Austria: New Media Online GmbH. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
  5. ^ a b Tufty, B. (1978) 1001 Questions Answered about Earthquakes, Floods, Avalanches and Other Natural Disasters, Courier Dover, p133, ISBN 0-486-23646-3
  6. ^ "Force of Nature - Death in the Alps". BBC Corp. Retrieved 2008-03-27.