Hours after the fatal avalanche accident in Zermatt, there was still no all-clear for winter sports enthusiasts: The Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research still assessed the avalanche danger for the area from Valais to Graub√ľnden towards Austria as high. According to the announcement in the evening, the danger level initially remained at four on the five-level scale. A downgrade to danger level three was planned for today, it was said.

On Riffelberg in Zermatt, four people were swept away by the masses of snow when a large avalanche occurred early Monday afternoon. Three people died and a fourth person was injured and taken to hospital. The police initially did not provide any information about the identity or condition of the injured person. Because there were no reports of missing persons, the rescuers assumed that there were no other people under the snow, as Zermatt’s rescue chief told the newspaper “Blick”.

The increased danger situation was already apparent due to the weather conditions over the Easter days. A lot of snow had fallen at altitude and at the same time there were sometimes hurricane-force winds. This resulted in large accumulations of drifted snow that are particularly prone to triggering. The danger of avalanches was also high in places in Austria and South Tyrol in Italy. Even with a downgrade to danger level three, avalanches could not be ruled out, as the experts announced in the evening: “Individual winter sports enthusiasts can trigger avalanches in places, even very large ones. Tours and off-piste runs require great caution and restraint.”

The accident happened in a variant area. There are no prepared and monitored slopes there, but winter sports enthusiasts ski in deep snow. This is where most avalanche accidents happen. Marked pistes are closed if there is a risk of avalanches above.