Year round, skiers and snowboarders from around the world flock to ski resorts in the Alps. This year, however, extreme weather and dangerous conditions have plagued riders. At the Austrian St. Anton, all road and rail access has been cut off.
The town, popular with British skiers, is the latest to suffer from extreme transportation disruption; more than 18” of snow fell over the weekend, and the same amount is due to fall again in the next 48 hours. On Monday morning, the avalanche risk across the Austrian Tirol region—which includes resorts such as St. Anton, Lech, and Ischgl—was set to five (out of five). This indicates an extremely high risk.
According to Rudi Mair, of the Tirol Avalanche Warning Service, this has not happened since the winter of 1999. That year, as some may remember, saw the largest avalanche accident in Austrian history; an avalanche at Galtür, a popular resort, killed 38 people and triggered an emergency helicopter evacuation.
Resorts across Austria and the greater Alps region have described the current weather, including the upcoming snowfall, as an emergency situation. This comes just two weeks after 13,000 tourists were stranded in Switzerland. Extreme weather in Zermatt, another resort, cut off rail and road access.
Those travelling to this part of Europe are being advised to seek alternative accommodation in lower-altitude towns and cities. Avalanche danger is not to be taken lightly, as entire resorts can be overtaken in a matter of minutes.
For reference, we have included the Avalanche Safety Risk Scale below.
|Rating||Risk Level||Snow Stability|
|1||Low||Very few unstable slabs. The snow pack is well-bonded and stable.|
|2||Moderate||Unstable slabs possible on some steep slopes.|
|3||Considerable||Unstable slabs probable on some steep slopes.|
|4||High||Unstable slabs likely on many steep slopes.|
|5||Very High||The snowpack is weakly bonded and very unstable.|