At least three people died in a huge avalanche near Zermatt, Switzerland, on Easter Monday. A fourth person was found alive, the police in the canton of Valais reported late in the evening. It was initially unclear whether there were other people under the masses of snow. The search has been suspended for the time being. The police wanted to reassess the situation on Tuesday morning. She did not provide any information about the nationality of the victims.

The police, together with a large contingent, had been searching for missing people for hours. The avalanche occurred in the Riffelberg ski area in the early afternoon – according to the police, in a variant area. This is terrain where experienced skiers normally ski in deep snow outside of the marked and controlled ski slopes.

The Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (WLF) warned of a high risk of avalanches on Monday morning. “Very large and occasionally extremely large spontaneous avalanches are to be expected,” it said. There was also a great danger of avalanches in Tyrol in Austria and in South Tyrol. The reasons for this were a lot of fresh snow and sometimes hurricane-force winds, which caused large accumulations of drifting snow. According to the avalanche warning services, these are particularly susceptible to failure.

If the ski slopes are marked, ski area experts ensure that they are closed if there is a risk of avalanches. Outside the marked pistes, ski tourers must assess the danger themselves. In Switzerland, 14 people died in twelve avalanche accidents in the winter of 2023/24 by the end of March.