1 dead after avalanche hits Swiss ski resort
CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP) — A 34-year-old Frenchman whose job was to check the safety of ski slopes died overnight after being injured in an avalanche at a popular Swiss Alps ski resort, police said Wednesday.
The man was one of four injured people who were rescued after being swept away Tuesday afternoon by an avalanche that hit a slope on Plaine Morte, a glacier near the town of Crans-Montana.
“Unfortunately, overnight one of the four injured people died,” said Steve Leger, a spokesman for the Valais canton police department.
Leger said 43 people reached out, worried that their friends or family had been hit by the avalanche, but “we systematically verified — found, located — these people and rule them out of danger.”
Nearly 250 rescue workers, medics, police officers and military personnel took part in the search, backed by eight helicopters and a dozen search dogs. They searched all night but stopped Wednesday morning.
The cause for the avalanche wasn’t immediately clear. Roughly half of the 840-meter (920-yard) long avalanche made a direct hit across the ski slope. Leger said one possibility was that it could have been triggered by the passage of a skier.
Switzerland’s Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research had put the risk of an avalanche in the area at level 2, which is relatively low on its 5-point scale.
The avalanche comes ahead of a weekend women’s World Cup event involving top skiers such as Switzerland’s Lara Gut on the Mont Lachaux run at Crans-Montana.
Authorities said the avalanche was not expected to affect the event, which begins with training runs on Thursday.
The storm that blew through the Central Rockies began to clear Tuesday afternoon, just in time for a smaller storm to show up Wednesday and Thursday.