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Swedish ski resort hit by avalanches

TT/The Local/dl · 29 Dec 2010, 14:29

Published: 29 Dec 2010 11:38 GMT+01:00
Updated: 29 Dec 2010 14:29 GMT+01:00

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A handful of off-piste skiers triggered a small avalanche in the Eastern Valley of the Åre ski resort in northwestern Sweden on Wednesday.

The avalanche comes one day after another avalanche tumbled down one of the resort's slopes on Tuesday, prompting warnings about increased avalanche risk.

“It’s like skiing in a minefield – on steeper sections, snow can give way at any time,” Mårten Johansson of the Åre Avalanche Centre (Åre Lavincenter) told the TT news agency on Tuesday.

He emphasised that the risk for an avalanche is high due the weak and brittle snow in the mountains of northern Sweden even if official warnings have yet to be elevated to their highest level.

Wednesday's avalanche occurred just outside Åre's groomed trails and the skiers who triggered the slide escaped without injuries.

"They didn't get caught by the slide and they didn't see any other skiers in the area either. This time everything ended happily," Anders Aspholm, head of security for Åre resort operator Skistar, to the TT news agency.

Mountain rescue teams and dogs also searched the area, but called off operations after failing to turn up any sign of people having been caught in the avalanche.

The slide was the second avalanche in two days which occurred without causing any casualties.

Tuesday's slide took place around lunchtime on Tuesday on Åre’s Hummelbranten run.

“The avalanche, which was quite small, was triggered by a few skiers who were skiing off-piste who managed to get out of the way. The snow that broke loose had been built up due to winds,” said Johansson.

The run where the avalanche occurred was closed at the time, as it is only used in connection with major downhill competitions like the World Cup.

As a precaution, ski area personnel searched the area and found that no one had been caught up in the avalanche.

At Åre and at several other ski areas, the avalanche risk level is currently at level three on a five-level scale, which means that the risk for an avalanche is significant.

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“When it’s been this cold for an extended period of time, the snow becomes unstable even if the snow isn’t that deep. It’s going to remain cold for the next few days, with more snow expected at the weekend in combination with strong winds. That means there continues to be a higher risk for avalanches,” said Johansson.

While there is no risk of an avalanche when skiing on groomed runs and connecting trails, skiers looking to try their luck off-piste may want to reconsider.

“As it looks now, people should exercise caution when the slope has more than a 25 degree angle and one should avoid stopping at edges with loose snow,” said Johansson.

TT/The Local/dl (news@thelocal.se)

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