Avalanche risk to rise

The danger of avalanches in Austrian mountains ranges from slight to considerable at present but is expected to rise over the weekend as the weather worsens.The Lower Austrian avalanche warning service said today (Fri) the level was three in areas bordering on the Ybbs Valley and the Rax-Schneeberg area, two in Türnitz Alps and one in the Gutenstein Alps and the Semmering-Wechsel area.It said the danger would go up over the weekend as rainfall would increase the risk of spontaneous avalanches.The Vorarlberg service said the level of avalanche danger was three in areas above 2,100 metres and two in lower areas but still not to be underestimated. It added unstable snow cover in many areas made avalanches likely.Five people have died in avalanches in the province since the beginning of February.The Salzburg service said the danger of avalanches was at the two and the three levels, depending on the area in question. It warned that expected new snow and high wind would significantly raise the level in the Hohe Tauern mountains.A series of deaths by avalanche continued this week in Austria, with a 50-year-old skier from Ehrwald, Tyrol, dying in an avalanche on Tuesday near Gamskars in the province’s Zugspitz area.Police said the man’s wife reported him missing at 8pm, and searchers found his body at 11pm under 30 centimetres of snow at an altitude of 1,800 metres.In another mountain accident, two people ski touring in Upper Austria ended up in hospital over the weekend after falling.The separate accidents occurred in Roßleithen in the Kirchdorf district and near the Simony hut on the Dachstein. In both cases, the injured skiers were taken by helicopter to local hospitals.Last week, a 42-year-old Norwegian woman who suffered serious head injuries when she was caught in an avalanche a week ago Saturday died at Innsbruck University Clinic.Long-term statistics show that an average of 26 people die in avalanches in the Austrian Alps every year.