Avalanches Kill 11 in Switzerland, Austria, Italy

A slew of avalanches rocked the Alps over the weekend. The confirmed death toll rose to 11 by Monday morning and included a ski guide, multiple tourists, and a snow plow operator.

School holidays caused a boom in ski tourism in the area, despite Austrian authorities’ warnings of acute avalanche danger. Heavy snowfall and wind in the area prompted authorities to issue a level four avalanche alert — the country’s second highest avy warning level. Multiple outlets emphasized the serious nature of the alert.

Yet skiers stayed out on the slopes over the weekend — some with catastrophic results.

A terrible weekend

Austrian police announced five deaths on Sunday. Among those was a 59-year-old man driving a snow plow in the alpine region of Tyrol, the BBC said. Also, a 29-year-old ski guide died along with a 33-year-old male “guest” in Sankt Anton am Arlberg, The Washington Post reported. The outlet said the two were skiing off-piste when a snowboarder triggered an avalanche above them. And a 62-year-old man who was cross-country skiing near the summit of Hohe Aifner also died in a snowslide.

On Saturday in Tyrol, avalanches buried a 17-year-old New Zealander, according to the Post, and a 32-year-old Chinese national died elsewhere. In the country’s far western mountains, a 55-year-old German missing since Friday was found dead. The BBC reported that each incident occurred while the skiers were “said to be skiing off designated ski trails when avalanches hit.”

Saturday in Switzerland, a 56-year-old woman and 52-year-old man died due to unstable snow in the southeast canton of Graubuenden. A third member of their group emerged unharmed.

A 31-year-old German woman died in Italy’s South Tirol region of Italy when a snowmass cut loose at 2,200 meters near the Limo Pass, according to dpa news. Winds of 120 kph winds hampered rescue efforts, but responders eventually recovered her body from under 2.5m of snow. Another woman skiing with her came away from the incident unharmed.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.