Mountain Safety Council – 40 year celebration

October 2019, by Markus Nyman

40 Year anniversary

Last week was the 40 year anniversary celebration of the Mountain Safety Council of Sweden. Markus was invited on behalf of the Swedish Mountain Leader Organisation and travelled to Stockholm to attend. The celebration consisted of two parts – first a conference part then a celebration dinner.

In total, about 70 people with connection to the Mountain Safety Council attended in the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency headquarters. Some of the speakers were scientists, mountain rescuers and former members of the council.

Below is a translation of the press release made by the Swedish EPA.

The mountain safety council turns 40 years old

This year it is 40 years since the Mountain Safety Council of Sweden was created. Since the start, there has been major changes in the mountains. Both to activities offered and visitors knowledge and experiences, but also the equipment used. 

In the late 1970s, several serious mountain accidents occurred in Sweden, causing an intense national debate on mountain safety. A mountain safety investigation was conducted in 1978 and a parliamentary decision made clear that there should be a mountain safety council with the task of working to prevent accidents in the mountains and coordinate the work on mountain safety. For the first four years, the Council was its own government agency, but since 1984 the activities have been integrated within the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. 

The Mountain Safety Council works in several ways to prevent accidents. This is done, among other things, through various information and education efforts, and by coordinating and guiding other authorities and organizations. 

– The conditions have changed a lot over the years, for example regarding the equipment and tools we use. Nowadays it is almost obvious that we have access to good weather forecasts, avalanche forecasts and mountain maps directly in our mobile phones. Our trails in the mountains are also of a much higher standard than 40 years ago”, says Per-Olov Wikberg, coordinator for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s Mountain Safety Council. 

Another change is that a lot of new activities have been established in the mountains, which attracts many new visitors. 

– We see that more and more new, more unaccustomed visitors are coming to experience the magnificent mountain environment. Although traditional mountain hiking is the activity most people choose, there are many other activities that are becoming increasingly popular, such as mountain biking, running, paragliding, snowmobiling, skiing, etc. This creates new challenges, both for mountain rescue and how we communicate to reach the new groups, continues Per-Olov Wikberg. 

Today, most mountain visitors know about the Mountain Safety Council, but it is not possible to say with certainty how many accidents and incidents have been avoided thanks to all the efforts carried out over the years. But without a mountain safety work, the accidents would most likely have been significantly more than is the case today. The work is also about making everyone feel safe in the mountains, whether you are visiting the mountains for the first time or if you have long experience of mountain hiking. 

Ahead of 2020, several different strategically important efforts are under way. The Swedish avalanche forecasting service continues its establishment for additional mountain areas. The government has announced an increased budget for maintenance of the mountain trails and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency intends to develop a long-term strategy in 2020 to further streamline the mountain safety work. How the mountain safety work is affected by ongoing climate change is also topical. 

– Mountain safety issues are about preventing accidents and incidents in the mountains, but also about people and how they feel about staying in the mountains. Our goal is to enable mountain visitors, residents and other actors to stay and work safely in the mountains. We do this by promoting collaboration and providing a meeting place and a knowledge platform for all players in the mountain safety field, concludes Per-Olov Wikberg

Hey! I'm Markus 👋

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Markus Nyman
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