Fresh warnings as Brit killed in the Alps

30th March 2015, by Abi Butcher

The 30-year-old was caught in an avalanche in Switzerland on Saturday (library pic)

The 30-year-old was caught in an avalanche in Switzerland on Saturday (library pic)

There are fresh warnings for skiers and snowboarders to take care in the mountains, following the death of a British snowboarder in an avalanche this weekend. Heavy snow is forecast this week with a number of storms blowing through the Alps this week.

The 30-year-old man died while snowboarding off-piste in Valais, at an altitude of 3,600m. The Times newspaper reported that the snowboarder was with his 31-year-old brother in the Hannibal Corridor of Mont Vélan. The man was wearing an avalanche transceiver, so rescue workers could find him quickly, but pronounced dead at the scene.

Five people are understood to have been killed in avalanches in Switzerland, France and Italy in the past three days — with a few weeks left to go of the season, which has suffered a hugely unstable snowpack all winter, there are likely to be more.

Snow has been falling in the past few days, most heavily in the northern French and western Swiss Alps — with 30-50cm above 2000m.

Fraser Wilkin of Weather to Ski, who supplies our weekly snow reports, says: “The western Austrian Alps and far north-west of Italy are also seeing their fair share of bad weather, but the southern French and eastern Italian Alps have escaped the worst. Wherever you are though, wind has been/is also a factor and may affect lift operations at altitude.

“Today, the rain/snow limit will creep up towards 2000m in the north-western Alps (a little lower further east), before it turns colder again mid-week.”

Avalanche expert Henry Schniewind warns in his latest blog: “This new snow is, and will be, coming down on an unstable snowpack this week on North’ish (W to N to E) sides of the mountain in most of the Alps above 2300 m.”

Though the south-facing slopes will be more stable initially, he adds, things will change once they are hit and warmed by the sun.

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