LATEST: Five cross-country skiers found dead in Swiss Alps

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LATEST: Five cross-country skiers found dead in Swiss Alps
The hikers were found dead on the Zermatt-Arolla route. Photo: Pixabay

Five of the six cross-country skiers who went missing in the Swiss Alps over the weekend have been found dead.


Poor weather conditions complicated the search in the mountains, but a team of rescuers was finally able to be dispatched to the area by helicopter, where they "discovered the bodies of five of the six people reported missing", Valais cantonal police announced on Monday.

After the group, which left Zermatt on Saturday morning toward the resort of Arolla, had not arrived at their destination at 4 pm, a family member had alerted the police.

The search was launched on the Zermatt-Arolla hiking route, focusing especially on the  Col de Tête Blanche sector located at the altitude of approximately 3,500 metres.

"All day Sunday, the various specialised units of the Cantonal Police, in particular the mountain group as well as the technical and telecommunications officers, were engaged alongside the rescuers and the army air forces," the police said.

The weather conditions were "catastrophic", with freezing temperatures and a significant avalanche risk, Christian Varone, head of Valais cantonal police told reporters.

A person who had gone to pick up the group in Arolla sounded the alarm shortly after 4 pm  on Saturday.

An hour later, a member of the missing group managed to reach the rescue services by mobile phone, allowing them to pinpoint where to search for the skiers.

Varone said rescue workers had pulled out all the stops to try to reach them, but that the dire weather conditions had long prevented helicopters and teams of expert skiers and mountaineers from reaching the area.

"We were trying the impossible," he said, adding that the mission had pushed its efforts "to the extreme, extreme limit", but were forced to turnaround to avoid "seriously endangering the lives of the rescue workers".

"Sometimes you have to bow before nature."


On Sunday, a team consisting of two rescue workers, a doctor and a mountain police officer, was finally able to be dropped off by helicopter nearby, police said.

"At around 9:20 pm, it reached the Tête Blanche sector, where it discovered the bodies of five of the six people who were missing," it said in a statement.

The search is meanwhile continuing for the last member of the group.

"As long as there is hope we will keep going... while remaining realistic in view of the conditions this person has been in for the past 48 hours," Varone said.

Police have yet to reveal the identities of those involved, only saying that the five family members were from Wallis canton and the sixth person from the canton of Fribourg.

Valais lead prosecutor Beatrice Pilloud told reporters that an investigation had been launched to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident.



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