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Long winter set new records with fewer deaths

It is official: The 2008/09 winter season was longer and snowier than average, according to Swiss researchers.

In a wrap-up report detailing last winter’s statistics, the Institute for Snow and Avalanche research in Davos said Switzerland’s wet winter broke numerous records.

Starting in early October, snow fell across most of the country, leaving even lowland communities like Zurich with as much as 20cm on the ground. In central Switzerland and the southern canton of Valais the snowpack grew to one-metre thick in places, a record for that time of year.

Storms carried through well into April, when areas like the Saastal received up to two metres of new snow in four days.

Areas along the crest of the Alps and toward the south had the greatest snow cover and reported two- to three-times as much snow as normal. Juf, in canton Graubünden, set a new snow-depth record for 108 days.

Other communities in canton Graubünden and Ticino also set records. St Moritz reported 156cm on the ground in February. Nante, in southern Switzerland, reported 210cm that month.

Avalanche danger remained considerable for much of the winter, though deaths were down.

The institute recorded 131 slides that caught 124 people, 23 of whom died. Most were skiers, snowboarders and people on snowshoes. Each year about 25 people die in avalanches in Switzerland.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR