Ski patroller killed by avalanche in Swiss canton of Valais

A 24-year-old ski patroller was killed on Monday when he and a colleague were caught by an avalanche while attempting to ensure the safety of ski pistes in the Portes du Soleil ski area.

Ski patroller killed by avalanche in Swiss canton of Valais
Les Crosets in the Swiss canton of Valais. Photo: Swiss Tourism

The two men were laying explosive charges to artificially trigger avalanches in a bid to boost safety in the huge skiing area which straddles the French and Swiss borders. 

They were struck by an avalanche at around 11.25am in the area between Champoussin and Les Crosets, regional newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported.

One of the men was able to free himself from the snow and he and several of his colleagues then attempted to rescue the other patroller. 

However, the 24-year-old man died on site.

The two men were equipped with avalanches transceivers, Swiss media reported. 

The death came on a day when a large area of the Swiss Alps stretching from the east of the Bernese Oberland to the canton of Graubünden was at level 5 for avalanche risk – the highest possible risk level. 

“I want to make it clear: it is very dangerous,” Kurt Winkler of Switzerland´s snow and avalanche research centre SLF said in an interview published by papers in the TA Media group on Monday. 

That risk has been downgraded to level 4 for Tuesday with drier conditions expected over the coming two days. 

Switzerland´s avalanche warning for Tuesday January 15th. Image: SLF

But the situation in the areas affected remains far from safe. Under level 4 avalanche risk conditions, spontaneous and very large avalanches are likely and can easily be triggered on steep slopes, the SLF warns.

People without experience should remain on open ski runs and trails.

Extreme weather conditions on Monday halted the clean-up of a hotel in eastern Switzerland that was struck by an avalanche late last week. Three people suffered minor injuries in the incident.

The Swiss national weather office, MeteoSwiss, said on Monday that parts of the Alps had seen 60 to 90 centimetres of snow since Saturday night.