Switzerland: Six skiers disappear in the Swiss Alps near the Matterhorn

  • Written by Imogen Foulkes
  • BBC News, Geneva

Image source, Getty Images

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The six set out from Zermatt, home of the famous Matterhorn, in Switzerland

A massive search and rescue operation is underway in the Swiss Alps after six skiers disappeared.

The six set off from Zermatt, home of the famous Matterhorn, on Saturday, on a ski tour towards Arola, along the Swiss-Italian border.

Somewhere near the 3,706-meter-high mountain of Tete Blanche, they were lost.

Local police said that all available rescue teams on both sides of the road had been alerted, but severe weather was hampering the operation.

Strong winds have been blowing in the Alps for several days, and heavy snow has fallen over the past 24 hours. Saas-Fee, a winter resort adjacent to Zermatt, is currently cut off by snow.

Anjan Truffer, head of Zermatt's air rescue service, told the BBC that the weather was currently so bad that “flying is not an option”, with “very strong winds, heavy snow, high avalanche risk and zero visibility”.

Troffer said he believed the six, whose identities and nationalities were not revealed, were overcome by bad weather and were not hit by an avalanche, because they were lost on a section of the Zermatt-Arola road where the avalanche danger is low. .

Skiers usually follow ungroomed routes in the Alps and must be equipped with GPS devices and avalanche shovels.

The last signal from the group was recorded overnight. Troffer said the order was not “verbal”, but it allowed rescue services to get a rough idea of ​​their location.

The road from Zermatt to Arola is part of the famous 120 km (75 mi) “main road” from Zermatt to Chamonix.

It is very popular, but is only suitable for the most experienced skiers, and can take several days.

Rescue services say there is a good chance the missing skiers will survive, despite temperatures of up to -16 C (3.2 F) and winds of up to 80 km/h (50 mph), if they can dig holes. Snow hole themselves.

The hope now is that the weather will clear, allowing rescue helicopters to fly.

“We can land there, that's not the problem, we do it all the time,” Truffer said. “But we need the flying conditions.”

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