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Easter Avalanche Kills American Teen, 2 Others at Swiss Resort

A rescue operation included search dogs, helicopters, and dozens of people, but it was too late for three unfortunate skiers in Switzerland on Easter Monday.

zermatt avalanche rescueRescuers at the accident site in Zermatt; (photo/Police Cantonale Valasienne)
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An original version of this article was published on ExplorersWeb.

An avalanche on the ski slopes just above Zermatt, Switzerland, has killed three people and seriously injured at least one more, according to early reports.

The victims were clients at one of Switzerland’s most exclusive ski resorts. The slide occurred on Easter Monday, a popular holiday in parts of Europe. It struck the skiers about 2 p.m. in the Riffelberg section, or the heart of the Zermatt ski area.

The first victim identified was a 15-year-old American teen. Authorities also found two other fatalities, a man and a woman. The injured skier is a 20-year-old Swiss national. None of the victims have been publicly identified, the Valais Cantonal Police reported.

Police and rescue teams noted that the skiers were off-piste. Several people recorded the avalanche from nearby terraces, showing how the avalanche swept down a steep slope between the groomed runs.

The rescue operation involved 45 people, search dogs, and four helicopters from Air Zermatt that scouted the area until nightfall.

Monday’s deaths came after a powerful front of high winds and heavy snowfall crossed southern and central Europe last week. Monday was sunny and less windy: a perfect skiing day, but with dangerous conditions due to wind slabs on top of fresh, unstable snow.

On Tuesday, the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) bulletin showed a risk of 3 (on a scale of 5) in the Swiss Alps. Yesterday, however, the risk level rose to 4.

An SLF representative told The Guardian that 14 people have died in 12 avalanches in Switzerland so far this season.

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