Avalanche in Zermatt Kills U.S. Teen, Two Others

An avalanche on the ski slopes just above Zermatt has killed three people and seriously injured at least one more, according to preliminary reports.

This time, the victims were not backcountry skiers but users at one of Switzerland’s most exclusive ski resorts. The slide came down yesterday, Easter Monday, a holiday in part of Europe. It hit at 2 pm in the Riffelberg section, in the heart of the ski area.

Zermatt ski slopes map.

The avalanche occurred at the Riffelberg section, in the center of Zermatt skiing. Photo: Zermatt Ski


Enlarged map of the Riffelberg area in Zermatt ski resort.

Enlarged map of the Riffelberg area. Photo: Zermatt Ski


The first victim identified was a 15-year-old  American male. The names of the two other fatalities, a man and a woman, are yet to be released, the Valais Cantonal Police reported. The injured skier is a 20-year-old Swiss national.

Police and rescue teams noted that the skiers were off-piste. Several people recorded the avalanche from nearby terraces, showing how the avalanche swept down a steep slope between the groomed runs.

The rescue operation involved 45 people, search dogs, and four helicopters from Air Zermatt that scouted the area until nightfall.

A powerful front of high winds and heavy snowfall crossed southern and central Europe last week. Yesterday was sunny and less windy: a perfect skiing day, but with dangerous conditions due to wind slabs on top of fresh, unstable snow.

Today, the bulletin by the SLF (the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research) shows a risk of 3 (on a scale of 5) in the Swiss Alps. Yesterday, however, the risk was 4. So far this season, 14 people have died in 12 avalanches in Switzerland, the SLF told The Guardian.

Avalanches signaled on a map of Switzerland.

The “white risk” maps by SLF show the current avalanches in the Swiss Alps and their size. Map: SLF

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.