Avalanches killed two skiers and thousands of winter tourists were unable to leave major alpine resorts in the Austrian mountains at the weekend due to heavy snowfall creating dangerous conditions.
More than half a metre of snow had fallen on the northern side of the Alps since Saturday morning.
The avalanche hazard across most of the Austrian Alps was rated as “high” – the second-highest on the five-level scale.
Despite the risks and warnings by authorities, some skiers ventured off-piste, resulting in two fatalities in the western mountain province of Vorarlberg.
The victims were Germans who died even though they were equipped with safety gear such as inflatable vests intended to keep skiers above the snow surface in an avalanche. They were buried in separate incidents.
Rescuers were able to dig out the two young men, but were not able to to resuscitate them.
In a third fatal accident in Vorarlberg on Sunday, a Swiss snowboarder veered off the piste in a curve, slid down a steep slope and died after she got stuck head first in deep snow.
Meanwhile, some 12,000 tourists were snowed in at the resort of Saalbach-Hinterglemm until Sunday afternoon, when experts managed to set off an avalanche with a controlled explosion, Mayor Alois Hasenauer told dpa.
In the resort of Obertauern, roads remained closed, but a convoy for hundreds of vacationers who wanted to leave was organized by emergency services on Sunday afternoon.
The winter weather also caused disruptions in various parts of the country as snow-laden trees toppled onto roads, rail tracks and power lines.