Avalanche Kills Female Skier in Samnaun, Switzerland

Julia Schneemann | | Industry NewsIndustry News
The wet avalanche spilled over the track usually used by the groomers. | Picture: Kantonspolizei Graubünden

An avalanche in Samnaun, Switzerland, swept away two female skiers around 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, 2023, who were skiing in the ski area of Ischgl-Samnaun, which is a popular cross-border resort in Austria and Switzerland.

The women were skiing on a path typically used by snow ploughs slightly above the groomed run, when a wet avalanche was released above them. The women noticed the avalanche and tried to outski it but both got swept away. One of the women, aged 54, was only partially buried and was found straight away by mountain rescue. She was flown with mild injuries to a hospital in Zams, Austria.

Snow plougs grooming the runs during the week after recent snowfall in Switzerland. | Picture: Pistenteam Ischgl/Samnaun Facebookg Page

The other woman, aged 53, was carried for about 130ft (40m) and was fully buried. She was only found about an hour later through the help of avalanche search dogs. She was resuscitated and helicoptered to a specialist hospital in St. Gallen, Switzerland, where she succumbed to her injuries. 

Rescuers from Switzerland and Austria were called to the search and the canton of Grisons/Graubünden is investigating the incident.

The avalanche danger for most areas in Switzerland are currently at Level 2 ‘moderate’ but were judged to be Level 3 ‘considerable’ for wet avalanches on Saturday for the Samnaun region by the Swiss Avalanche Institute ’SLF’. A subsequent wet avalanche on Sunday, April 30, 2023, slid onto the groomed runs in Samnaun in the afternoon. Dozens of rescue workers searched the snow according to a report by Swiss newspaper Blick, but it appears that no-one had been injured

Sunday’s avalanche spilled onto a popular groomed run in Samnaun. | Picture: unknown Blick reader

Wet avalanches are very dangerous this time of year when warmer temperatures can cause liquid water in the snowpack, which weakens the bonding of the different snow layers. Water accumulates and increases the instability, in particular where you encounter poorly bonded, non-homogenous snow layers of varying grain sizes. Often these types of avalanches are triggered spontaneously and not through other snowsport participants. 

Please exercise cautions when venturing out in areas that face the sunshine and have steep runs above you are these are more prone to wet avalanches this time of year. Also be mindful when ski touring to venture out in the morning, when the snowpack is more solid and wrap up tours before it gets too warm to minimize risk.

Avalanche danger in Switzerland as of April 30, 2023. | Picture: SLF Website

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