Nearly twice as many people have reported being involved in avalanches so far this winter compared to last year, just as the so-called topptur season of climbing up to mountaintops and skiing down them has begun.
One skier has already been killed, in an avalanche at Lofoten last weekend, while 12 French tourists narrowly escaped death in an avalanche at Kvænangen in Northern Troms Wednesday morning. One of the French skiers was trapped under the mounds of snow for around 30 minutes before he was found. Search and rescue crews believe he was probably saved by a large stone. He was caught in a standing position with his face close to the stone, providing him with enough air space until others in his group could dig him out. “He was very lucky,” operations leader Morten Augensen of the Troms Police District told state broadcaster NRK.
Another Norwegian man skiing north of Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise in Kiruna, was not so lucky and was killed in an avalanche Tuesday afternoon. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that he and four other tourists were skiing off-piste after being flown up to the top of the slope in a helicopter. His body was found after just 10 minutes but his life couldn’t be saved.
Augensen told NRK he’s worried by the frequency of skiers being caught in avalanches, which have been especially common this year all over Norway because of unusually heavy snow. “It’s unclear whether these (French) tourists were aware of the avalanche danger before setting out,” he said. “I hope they haven’t set safety aside in order to experience a topptur in the mountains.”