Four German ski tourers were killed by an avalanche last Friday in the eastern Bernese Alps, the police reported on Sunday.
The group of skiers set off at 9am on Friday from the Finsteraarhorn mountain hut, north of Fieschertal in canton Valais, heading to the Konkordia hut above the Aletsch Glacier.
After being swept away by an avalanche on Friday, their bodies were recovered on Saturday after the warden at the Konkordia hut alerted the police.
Bad weather delayed the rescue effort and the four bodies were only found on Saturday afternoon by the Goms and Air Zermatt rescue services below an avalanche.
Several avalanches were observed on the route taken by the skiers above 3,000 metres altitude, the Valais cantonal police said on Sundayexternal link. The ski touring route was not known as being dangerous, however, the fast-changing weather conditions right now demand great care, Valais police spokesperson Mathias Volken told Swiss public radio television, RTS, on Sunday. The current avalanche danger level is three on a scale of 1-5.
The bodies are currently being identified and the Valais Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation into the accident.
Over the past 20 yearexternal links, there has been an average of 100 reported avalanches a year where people were involved. On average, 23 people die in avalanches every year, the majority (+90%) in open mountainous areas where people were off-piste skiing, snowboarding, or backcountry touring on skis or snowshoes.
This winter,19 people have lost their lives in avalanches, according to the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos (SLF). external link
In controlled areas (roads, railways, communities and secured ski runs) the 15-year annual average number of victims dropped from 15 at the end of the 1940s to less than one in 2010.