“Winter of Terror” (1950-51): 265 Avalanche Deaths in the Alps

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In the winter of 1950-51, a previously unrecorded number of avalanches rocked the Swiss-Austrian Alps, killing over 265 people in the span of three months. Coined the “Winter of Terror”, this series of 649 avalanches destroyed over 900 buildings and thousands of acres of forests.

This period is thought to be a 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 10-15 ft of snowfall in a two-to-three-day period.

Over 40,000 people were buried under avalanche snow over the 1950-51 season. 


Austria suffered both the most damage and greatest number of deaths, with 135 killed and many villages destroyed. The Valais canton of Switzerland had 92 human deaths, approximately 500 cattle deaths, and destruction of 900 human-made structures.

Avalanches were so common, the Swiss town of Andermatt suffered six avalanches in just one hour, killing 13 people.

Andermatt, Switzerland in 2005.  (http://blog.andermatt-swissalps.ch/)

There have already been 75 avalanche deaths in Europe this season (2015). 

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8 thoughts on ““Winter of Terror” (1950-51): 265 Avalanche Deaths in the Alps

  1. The title say 259 people dead but the introduction says 265 people dead, which is correct?

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