Published March 04, 2007
BERN, Switzerland – Avalanches killed at least five skiers in the Swiss and French Alps on Sunday following days of heavy snow, authorities said.
At least four other people died in unrelated mountain accidents.
Two off-piste skiers died in France after being swept up in an avalanche near the Valloire ski station in the Savoie region, rescuers said.
Authorities did not immediately provide the identities of the victims.
All the Swiss accidents occurred away from prepared slopes and trails in widely separated parts of the country. None of the victims were identified. The deaths raised the avalanche death toll for this season in Switzerland to nine.
The victims included a 26-year-old German who was killed near Klosters in eastern Switzerland when he was carried off by a sheet of snow that broke loose, state police said.
A 41-year-old Frenchman was buried by an avalanche above Zermatt in southern Switzerland, Valais police said. A woman in a six-member group near Chateau d'Oex in central Switzerland was the third victim.
A snowboarder was carried 700 yards by an avalanche near Verbier in Valais, but he remained on top of the snow and was only lightly injured, officials said.
The Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos said avalanche danger remains high, especially at higher elevations where wind has created large snowdrifts.
Separately, a hiker in snow shoes tumbled to his death off a 15-yard cliff in the Isere region of Franc, and three climbers died when they fell near the lakeside city of Lecco in northern Italy, police said.
Authorities said were not sure what caused the climbing accident. A 47-year-old climber was killed instantly, while his companions, a 34-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman, died on the way to hospital, police said. All three were from Italy's Como area.