Avalanche Incidents at Record Level in Tirol

There are warnings of a continued high risk of deadly avalanches in the Alps with the authorities in the Tirol saying have had an unprecedented number of incidents. The warnings follow the deaths of 13 people in avalanches in the Alps since Friday. The latest fatalities are two young Dutch skiers who died in France.  UPDATED

There has been a series of fatal avalanches in the last week following heavy snowfall and high winds.

In the latest incident two skiers from the Netherlands died in an avalanche in France on Monday.

They were skiing off piste in the village of Saint-Colomban-des-Villards.

They were aged aged 20 and 21. Next of kin are being informed.

In the worst recent incident 5 people died near the small mountain village of Spiss in the Austrian Tirol, close to the Swiss border.

They were four Swedish ski tourers and a local mountain guide who had set off from the Austrian resort of Ischgl.

Since then, there have been more reports of fatalities.

Among them was a 46-year-old Italian skier who died after being swept 400 metres and buried at Val Müstair in Switzerland.

The Graubünden cantonal police said he was on the north face of the 2,967 metre Piz Daint mountain on Saturday.

He was one of a group of 3 climbing the face when the slide released, taking him with it.

Avalanche Val Mustair, Switzerland 6 Feb 2022 – photo c/o Graübunden cantonal police

The man was buried, despite wearing an avalanche airbag.

The police say his fellow tourers were able to give first aid before the rescue crew arrived but the man later died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday.

Another person is reported to have died in an avalanche in the Bavarian Alps.

After the 5 deaths in a single incident in Spiss in Austria, the Mayor, Alois Jäger, said there had never before been such a tragic event in the village.

One survivor remains in hospital.

The Tirol authorities have revealed that the incident was one of a record number of avalanche operations in the last week.

There have been around 100 avalanche operations and 70 rescue missions involving 520 helpers in just three days.

“For winter sports enthusiasts, there has been a critical avalanche situation off the secured slopes for days due to the amount of fresh snow in the past week,” a statement provided to PlanetSKI from the Tirol on Monday says.

“490 mountain rescuers and 30 alpine police officers were on duty in connection with the avalanches of the past few days.

“Tirol is excellently positioned to ensure the greatest possible safety in the mountains. All emergency forces are still on standby around the clock.

“Fresh snow is expected again today. Despite avalanche warning level 3, the beautiful weather and the snow situation had ensured that very many were outside the secured slopes or even on ski tours.”

This was how the avalanche risk map of the Tirol looked last Tuesday.  The orange represents risk 3 (considerable) while red is 4 (high).

Avalanche risk in Tirol, 1 Feb 2022 – photo c/o Tirol

The statement warns that anyone thinking of leaving the secured pistes must have both a lot of experience and, above all, information.

The up to date avalanche forecast for the Tirol can be found here.

The Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research said on Tuesday (8th February) there was currently a “critical avalanche situation” off-piste across a wide area of the Swiss Alps

“As a consequence of new snow and a storm force north westerly wind, deep wind slabs formed,” its bulletin, published on Tuesday morning said.

“The new snow and wind slabs are lying on top of a weakly bonded old snowpack. Even single snow sport participants can release avalanches easily.

Swiss avalanche bulletin 8 Feb 2022 – image © Institute for Snow & Avalanche Research (SLF)

“Avalanches can be triggered in the old snowpack and reach very large size in isolated cases.

“Remotely triggered avalanches are possible.  In addition further very occasional natural avalanches are possible.

“The conditions are critical for backcountry touring and other off-piste activities.”

Image © PlanetSKI