CHRISTMAS CAUTION: Large avalanche in Todalen prompts warning about high risk in coming days


A major avalanche on the snowmobile trail to Svea at about 6 p.m. Christmas Day triggered a large-scale response by emergency officials, who say there are no reports of people trapped, and a warning about the high risk of additional snowslides during the coming days in the vicinity of Longyearbyen.

The avalanche in Todalen, roughly 20 kilometers southeast of Longyearbyen, occurred in an area both well-travelled by snowmobilers and where multiple cabins exist. All available rescue personnel, including both of the governor’s rescue helicopters and the Longyearbyen Red Cross, were sent to the area to assess the impact and determine if anyone had been caught, according to Terje Carlsen, a spokesman for The Governor of Svalbard.

The assessment determined it was too dangerous to send personnel into the slide zone itself and, since there were no reports of people trapped, the rescuers departed from the scene at about 9 p.m.

“If you know of people who had planned a trip in the area or of people that are missing, we ask that you contact the governor’s office at this phone number: +47 79 02 44 40,” Carlsen wrote in a subsequent alert.

Those considering traveling in the coming days are also being cautioned due to snow conditions and poor visibility.

“We encourage people who are planning to go on a trip to be extra careful and follow closely on to get the latest notifications from the NVE, “Gov.Kjerstin Askholt said in a prepared statement. “Especially in narrow valleys there is a risk that landslides can be triggered.”

A Level-Three risk level (“considerable”) is expected Wednesday and a Level Two risk (“moderate”) on Thursday for the vicinity of Longyearbyen, according to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate.

“New snow and strong winds will briefly increase the avalanche danger in some parts of the region,” the forecast notes. “A persistent weak layer can still be triggered by high additional loads.”

The long-term weather forecast calls for temperatures of roughly minus 15 degrees Celsius, little to no snowfall, and mild to moderate winds.