Success stories

Swiss avalanche detonation system keeps transport routes safe worldwide

Wyssen Avalanche Control AG from Reichenbach im Kandertal (BE) manufactures special avalanche detonation masts. This is a product that has already been installed 380 times in order to protect ski runs, roads and railway lines from avalanches. In an interview, CEO Samuel Wyssen discusses the specifics of the export strategy and reveals his recipe for success.

Some 380 of these avalanche detonation masts are installed worldwide
Some 380 of these avalanche detonation masts are installed worldwide

Samuel Wyssen, avalanche detonation masts from Wyssen Avalanche Control AG have been installed in Austria as well as Switzerland. The product is in such high demand that over the last few months further installations have followed in other countries. Can you tell us where exactly?
Over the last few months we’ve gone from strength to strength. In 2015, we branched into Canada, in 2016, into Norway, and in 2017, into the USA and Chile. These markets have thus been tapped into relatively quickly, but developing the markets in these countries takes a lot of time and effort. We thus had to invest for seven years before the first order came from Norway, for example. 
We also find ourselves continually dealing with new enquiries from countries having to deal with problems caused by snow and avalanches, and we now intend to compare these markets based on various criteria and assess our chances of success there. Our resources are limited and we have to focus our attention. 

How does the detonation system from Wyssen Avalanche Control AG differ from other systems?
Our systems are permanently installed. That means we can trigger avalanches via remote control at any time of the day or night. When snow volumes in the avalanche-prone areas have reached critical levels, our clients can take action, for example even directly during a snowstorm, in order to prevent damaging avalanches. This is a huge advantage.
In Switzerland we apply our technology to protect both ski runs and transport routes, while in other countries it is mainly for transport routes. In Canada, for example, our avalanche detonation masts are installed along the Trans-Canada Highway, which is the country’s most important east-west road link covering 7000 kilometers. 

How important is sustainability to you with regard to the avalanche detonation masts?
Sustainability and environmental compatibility are very important to us, and these are also a basis for our concept. Our detonation masts require only small incursions into nature, in contrast to other protective measures such as avalanche protection tunnels, galleries or avalanche control structures. What’s more, we also consider the landscape and our masts are colored accordingly. Furthermore, the charge containers are made of biodegradable material and the systems are supplied with solar power.

How important are exports for Wyssen Avalanche Control AG?
Exports are hugely important to us, since we generate around 70 percent of our turnover this way. Most significantly, we are seeing saturation in those markets in which we have been active for a longer time, and although we can launch new products there, we are also seeking new target markets. Exports also enable us to create more jobs, which are initially in peripheral regions.

You’ve teamed up with Switzerland Global Enterprise to help you tap into new markets. Why?
We operate in a niche market, so more general market analyses are relatively tricky. S-GE is also helping us with matters of detail; for example in the USA we needed a tax consultation, a legal consultation and a bank account. We were really happy to have the support of S-GE there, and the contacts they gave us were exactly what we needed.

Wyssen Avalanche Control AG was founded in 2009, but avalanche and detonation systems have been around for much longer. Why is your product specifically in demand in the market? What is your recipe for success? 
We can’t really stand out in terms of price, but rather with our Swiss quality and the Swiss spirit of innovation. These are values we can achieve thanks to our team of 35, which is creative and seeks new ideas for customers each and every day. That’s the most important reason.
The other reason is the way we tap into a market. We set up an office in every country we operate in. This brings added costs, of course, but also means we are able to strengthen our brand locally, tailor the offerings more precisely to customer requirements and be closer to the customer in general. We are convinced that this is the way to be successful in the long term. 

About Wyssen Avalanche Control AG

Samuel Wyssen, a mechanical and business engineering graduate with an MBA, founded the company in 2009. He developed the avalanche detonation masts back in 1999 and introduced these in various different markets.
In doing so, Samuel Wyssen continued the pioneering spirit of his grandfather, who founded a family-run company with his sawmill back in 1926 and later invented the first cable crane – a cableway for materials that could pick up and transport masts along its cable line. In 1974 the family-run company also built one of the first detonation cableways for preventative avalanche detonation at the Weissfluhjoch in Davos.

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