Avalanche situation in Tirol “treacherous”

6th January 2015, by Abi Butcher

Two US team skiers died in an avalanche in Sölden yesterday

Two US team skiers died in an avalanche in Sölden yesterday

Authorities in Austria are “urgently advising” skiers that the avalanche situation in Tirol remains treacherous, following the death of two US Olympic hopefuls in Sölden yesterday.

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, part of the US developmental ski team were in a group of six freeskiing off-piste in the Austrian Alps when they were buried. Four other skiers escaped the slide, and a rescue operation involving around 60 people was mounted. Local reports say the pair were not wearing avalanche transceivers.

Avalanche warnings were raised over the weekend, following heavy snow falls and rain in some areas on top of recent warm temperatures. Yesterday, as today, the danger level in Sölden is three or “considerable”, the number at which most deaths occur in the mountains (for more information, read our feature Ever wondered how avalanche danger levels are set?).

The Tirol Avalanche Warning Service said today “the avalanche situation in Tirol remains treacherous, the danger above 2200m is considerable…and in some regions high. Skiing and freeriding tours in outlying terrain currently require a high degree of experience in evaluating risks. The inexperienced are urgently advised not to leave secured ski runs.”

The avalanche warnings remain high across most of the Alps — with the major hazard stemming from fresh snow being deposited on old, trigger-sensitive snowpack.

On Sunday, an 18-year-old Swiss man died from injuries sustained in an avalanche in the Saint-Luc/Chandolin area of Val d’Anniviers. Three helicopters and avalanche dogs were involved in the rescue of the man from Fribourg. The avalanche occurred at 4.40pm, and the teenager was buried in 1m70 of snow. He was airlifted to hospital in Sion but died in the early evening from his injuries.

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