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SKIER SURVIVES 5 HOURS UNDER SNOW

He was buried under a metre of snow in one of several avalanches to hit the Alps over Christmas. One came down on an open piste. UPDATED

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The ski tourer was a 26-year-old Austrian man.

He had gone up the eastern slopes of the Plestschnitzzinken south of Salzburg on Christmas Day.

A friend who tried to call him on his mobile phone after he failed to return contacted the emergency services after hearing crackling noises on the line.

A team of 20 mountain rescuers from Gröbming, along with avalanche dogs, piste groomer drivers, employees of the Galsterbergalm cable cars, mountain hut keepers and alpine policemen were deployed.

Avalanche search & rescue operation by Bergrettung Gröbming

Rescue operation – photo Bergrettung Gröbming

They combed a large area and eventually picked up the man’s avalanche transceiver signal.

He was rescued from under a metre of snow five hours after being buried.

He was said to be suffering from severe hypothermia but otherwise largely unharmed.

Avalanche rescue by Bergrettung Gröbming

Rescue operation – photo Bergrettung Gröbming

“You can’t move under a blanket of snow like this,” Stefan Schröck of the Styria mountain rescue service told Austrian public broadcaster ORF.

“The man was extremely lucky he had a big enough air pocket under the blanket of snow, so he had oxygen too and was able to breathe.”

He said such a long survival happens only once every 20 years in the Alps.

The man was taken by piste groomer to the nearest ski station and then transferred to hospital in Schladming where he is recovering.

Several avalanches have occurred in the Alps in the last few days following heavy snowfall.

In Austria, the ski resort of Ankogel experienced three avalanches in the morning on Boxing Day.

The Swiss resort of Andermatt was hit by one, which came down across an open piste.

Andermatt Avalanche

Andermatt Avalanche

The 60m wide and 300m long slide struck in the Oberalp Pass area, hitting several people.

Two were dug out. They were taken to hospital suffering from minor injuries.

Another four managed to free themselves.

They were all Swiss nationals.

Rescuers probed the avalanche debris for several hours in case others had been caught and buried.

The avalanche struck just before 11am. The search was called off shortly after 6pm.

No one was found to be buried and no one has been reported missing.

An investigation will look into how the avalanche came down on a run that had been declared safe to open.

Alpine Rescue Switzerland, Swiss Air Ambulance and the state police were involved in the rescue operation.

The avalanche risk at the time was 3 on a scale of 5, meaning ‘considerable’ danger.

Avalanche danger

Avalanche danger

A snowboarder was seriously injured in an avalanche off piste in the Swiss resort of St Moritz on Thursday.

The 36-year-old, who lives in Switzerland, was with three others near Piz Nair.

He was carried about 400 metres by the slide.

The three others were not injured.

And on Monday two teenage boys were briefly buried by an avalanche in the Austrian Tirol.

One is said to have attracted the attention of a friend by waving a hand above the snow.

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