The snow-reader

Every day in winter, the dedicated members of the avalanche commissions in Montafon ensure the safety of the ski resort and the valley. Christian Thöny, chairman of the avalanche commission of Gargellen, gives us an insight into his work, which brings great responsibility with it.

Christian Thöny | © Montafon Tourismus GmbH Schruns, Darko Todorovic

"Every day other natural influences reign"

Profile

Name: Christian Thöny
Occupation: Hotelier, chairman of the avalanche commission and mountain rescue as well as commander of the volunteer fire department
Place of residence: Gargellen
Sports: Any kind of movement outdoors

How did you come to be on the avalanche commission?
I grew up in the mountains. My father and later various companions have inspired me with their legendary sense of snow and generously passed their knowledge and skills on to me. So I already had a chance early on to gain professional familiarity with avalanche awareness.

What is the motivation behind your extensive volunteer work?
Protection of the locals and guests is very important to me. You should feel comfortable and safe with us in Gargellen. I also find the work exciting. Every day there are different natural influences, that is, we are always faced with a new challenge. And just the feeling of going down the untracked slopes when everyone else is still lying in bed before dawn is priceless.

What are the duties of the avalanche commission?
In winter, the Gargellen avalanche commission is responsible for safety in the town, including the marked winter hiking trails and access roads, as well as the Gargellen ski resort. Our duties include informing the public, the community, the safety authorities and the media and working with search and rescue services. In Gargellen, we are also in charge of blasting as commission members. This means a double responsibility.

What does your normal winter day look like?
My day starts very early in the morning, quite unspectacularly in front of the computer, comparing records from several weather stations. Then I drive to the ski area, where we again get the weather information for the team and perform measurements in the snow. All decisions that ensure the safety of the ski area are taken on a daily basis and depending on the situation. If required by the situation, we will artificially trigger an avalanche by blasting. At about 8.30 am, skiing may resume after we give the OK. Our work in the ski area ends at 4.30 pm Then the ski area is closed and only re-opened when we give the green light the next morning. 

You have been doing this for 30 years. How has your job changed since then?
It's almost inconceivable, the conditions which we used to work under and the effort that was required. Today we are supported by the latest technology. For example, we work with different computer programs that provide us with countless data, and in close cooperation with meteorological centres. But what has changed the most is the winter sport athletes themselves. This is partly due to the increasing number of people who are underway in the mountains, and on the other hand due to trendy new sports. Mobile phone, GPS and material development have increased the feeling of safety on the mountain - but also made the athletes more reckless.

Do you have a recommendation for winter sport athletes, on how to protect themselves from avalanches and deal with the threat?
I would say the most important thing is a healthy dose of common sense and comprehensive information, either online, via app, on the information boards with warning lights in the ski area, or in person from knowledgeable locals and cableway employees. In addition, good tour planning and safety equipment is a must, especially in open terrain. Ultimately, you still need to pay attention to your gut feeling. For me, a bad feeling always means "Stop"!

You have been doing this for 30 years. How has your job changed since then?
It's almost inconceivable, the conditions which we used to work under and the effort that was required. Today we are supported by the latest technology. For example, we work with different computer programs that provide us with countless data, and in close cooperation with meteorological centres. But what has changed the most is the winter sport athletes themselves. This is partly due to the increasing number of people who are underway in the mountains, and on the other hand due to trendy new sports. Mobile phone, GPS and material development have increased the feeling of safety on the mountain - but also made the athletes more reckless.

Do you have a recommendation for winter sport athletes, on how to protect themselves from avalanches and deal with the threat?
I would say the most important thing is a healthy dose of common sense and comprehensive information, either online, via app, on the information boards with warning lights in the ski area, or in person from knowledgeable locals and cableway employees. In addition, good tour planning and safety equipment is a must, especially in open terrain. Ultimately, you still need to pay attention to your gut feeling. For me, a bad feeling always means "Stop"!

Controlled avalanche triggering

Montafon Weather

Bartholomäberg
2°C
Gargellen
0°C
Gaschurn-Partenen
3°C
St. Anton im Montafon
4°C
St. Gallenkirch-Gortipohl
4°C
Schruns-Tschagguns
4°C
Silbertal
4°C
Vandans
4°C

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