One of the four people who was found in the avalanche that swept a ski slope in the Swiss Crans Montana resort has died, local authorities say. The man was a 34-year-old French citizen who worked for the local snow patrol and who was badly injured by the mass of snow that hit the piste on Tuesday, according to a tweet by the police department of the Valais region. He and three slightly injured people were rescued on Tuesday.
Valais cantonal police said in a statement: “The person who was seriously injured died during the night in Sion hospital. He was a French ski patroller aged 34. Witnesses told us there could be more people under the snow. That is why we are pursuing the search with considerable means.”
The large search effort that involved some 250 rescue workers, as well as a dozen sniffer dogs, was called off on Wednesday morning as no additional buried skiers were found during the night. The avalanche came down on Tuesday afternoon, piling several meters of snow onto a 400-meter stretch of a ski slope.
“The search continued all night and was halted this morning. It will resume if the situation requires. No disappearance has been signaled,” police said.</blockquote
Avalanches very rarely hit secured slopes in Switzerland. Prior to this week’s fatality, only one person had died in such an incident in the past decade, according to the national snow research institute SLF. In contrast, more than 220 people who skied in open terrain were killed by avalanches in the past 10 years.
The avalanche was 840 meters long and 100 meters wide, with 400 meters of heavy snow hitting the piste. It occurred in mid-afternoon and came after a week of warmer temperatures began melting heavy snow. The cause is being investigated, with two hypotheses being that skiers set off the avalanche or that it was spontaneous due to natural circumstances.
“There are two hypotheses,” she said. “The first is that several skiers set off the avalanche. The second hypothesis is it was a spontaneous avalanche due to climatic conditions, and in that case, it will be a question of determining responsibilities and problems of security.”
The Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research said the danger for the area had been only at level two on a scale of five on Tuesday.
A women’s World Cup skiing event is scheduled for this weekend on the Mont Lachaux run at Crans-Montana, although the avalanche was not expected to affect the start of the event, which begins with training runs on Thursday.