Alps snow: Avalanche kills three skiers in Austria

LECH, Austria (BBC): Three men have been killed in an avalanche near the Austrian ski resort of Lech am Arlberg, local police say. A fourth person is missing.

The group came from southern Germany and were reported missing by one of their wives on Saturday night.

The dead men, aged 32, 36 and 57, were found at about 23:00 (22:00 GMT).

But the search for the fourth person, aged 28, had to be halted due to the ongoing avalanche risk.

Police in the western province of Vorarlberg said they were located through mobile phone tracking, near the Langer Zug slope – one of the steepest in the world.

It had been closed due to dangerous conditions.

The men were wearing touring skis, which are used to climb uphill slopes and ski off-piste.

The three victims bring the number of weather-related deaths in parts of Europe this month to at least 24, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Austria has seen record snowfall, with more forecast for the weekend. Soldiers, firefighters, and volunteers have been battling to clear cut-off roads and rooftops during breaks in the weather.

On Friday, troops airlifted 66 German students and teachers to safety, after they became stranded at the Kasberg ski station in Grünau.

The same day, the Red Cross helped drivers stuck on a motorway in the south German state of Bavaria, and a nine-year-old boy was killed near Munich when a tree collapsed under the weight of snow.

In Switzerland, an avalanche hit the restaurant of the Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp, injuring three people.

Local reports said the avalanche had been 300m (984ft) wide when it came down the nearby mountain pass.

A Nasa graphic tweeted by BBC Weather showed how the geography of Europe has shaped the snow’s progress.

“Little to no snow has fallen on the Italian side of the Alps,” meteorologist Matt Taylor noted. “The sheer scale of the Alps has blocked the snow-bearing clouds making it over.”