Monday’s avalanche at ‘Stairway to Heaven’ near Nendaz, Switzerland.
© Police ValaisMonday’s avalanche at ‘Stairway to Heaven’ near Nendaz, Switzerland.
An avalanche on Monday morning killed a 28-year-old Dutch skier near the ski resort of Nendaz, Switzerland. The victim had been skiing off-piste with two friends on the heights of Nendaz in an area known amongst Freeriders as 'Stairway to Heaven' when the avalanche was triggered. His friends located him, dug him out, and contacted search and rescue, which tried resuscitation. He was revived and transported to the hospital but later died. Unfortunately, he did not survive.

On Wednesday, a separate, massive avalanche was triggered outside the marked tracks in the same location near the Col de Gentianes on the Nendaz side. It was between 300 and 400 meters wide and triggered an extensive search and rescue effort involving eight rescue helicopters and several search dogs. It was unclear at the time how many people may have been buried in the snow. At one stage, it was believed that up to ten skiers were in the avalanche, but apparently, all could free themselves and did not require medical assistance. Unfortunately, the extended search and rescue efforts found a Russian skier, aged 58, for whom all help came too late, and he was declared dead at the scene.

The enormous size of Wednesday’s fatal avalanche can be seen in comparison to Monday’s picture.
© Police ValaisThe enormous size of Wednesday’s fatal avalanche can be seen in comparison to Monday’s picture.
The cantonal police of Valais are calling for utmost caution from skiers because of the dangerous snow conditions. Switzerland has had extensive snowfalls in the last five days but has not seen any precipitation for the previous six weeks. This has resulted in poor bonding of the old and new snow layer, and the weight of one skier is enough to trigger a big avalanche. The Valais police are urging skiers and riders not to go off-piste in unsecured terrain or without being accompanied by a local tour guide.

The avalanche danger in the Swiss Alps may last for a few days. On Tuesday, the threat of avalanches in all of the Valais Alps was still high, at Level 4 out of 5. It returned to Level 3 on Wednesday when the larger avalanche was triggered.

"The situation remains tense and dangerous; be very careful," wrote the Institute for the Study of Snow and Avalanches (WSL) on Twitter.