9 Avalanche accidents in Austria you should know about!

Important note:

This is are certain avalanche accidents in austria from last winter 14/15.

My translation is not perfect because I am an austrian mountain guide with limited english! So i really apologies.

Why do I translate this text?

Because they are not available in English. Austria is an international skiing country every year people die in St. Anton because the are not sensitized that we have avalanche critical  terrain what you have to avoid to ski.

So think twice before you go and plan your days!!!! 



Avalanche accident , Valluga – Arlberg- St. Anton 19.01.2015

Valluga avalanche accident 2015



It`s open ski terrain, that has to be estimated by oneself. Only guided groups have access to the downhill run via a small cable-car. On the day, in which the accident occurred, a guide with six guests chose the downhill run towards Zürs. After a traverse the guide with a guest was waiting at an meeting place, while four guests were skiing down, one of them just at the former assembly point, a small dip. The skiers released a slab avalanche, which carried away the four persons. On of them lay with bruises above a rock fall. Three more persons were carried away over rocky terrain. They lay on the snow surface. One of them with serious injuries, the two other deadly injuries.

brief analysis: In order to find the cause of the avalanche, we dug further profiles on different places of the slope and carried out stability analysis. The results were quite different, from very unfavorable profiles to very good profiles. The problem of the avalanche has highly likely to do with a partly susceptible old snow pack on little snow places. There, during the winter, it developed  angular pronounced crystals beneath crusts respectively Schwimmschnee ? It was  probably a classical hot spot, from which the break spread in areas, which one could release so easy otherwise. The conditions by the way remind strongly on a similar situation Christmas

2008, when even there a deadly avalanche accident occurred.

relevant samples of danger: ground-level weak layer of early winter, cold, loose new snow and wind.

Avalanche accident Vorderer Rendl



Four australien snow boarder went from the top station of the Gampberg chairlift towards the Schimmeleck on Rendl.

They went a little bit to far right and ended up in the super steep and rocky section on the Rendl NE slope.

Because they were lost the whole group stopped while descending. Simultaneously they triggered a huge slab snow avalanche. All four boarders were take down with the avalanche. One person died one other person was heavily injured. 

Sulzekopf Herzle – freier Skiraum Lech, Lechquellen, 28.01.2015, ca. 11:25 Uhr


Around 11:25 a 34 year old german off piste skier skied down from mountain station of Steinmäder Sesselbahn at free skiing room to Sulzkopf. He skied an untouched deep snow slop with a steepness of 47 degrees. As a result a 50 meter-wide snow slab was released by him. He was carried away and completely buried. The avalanche was observed by two persons, who immediately alerted the rescue teams. Because the rescue team was endangered by potential avalanches, the had to blast the slopes above.

After 1 hour and 37 minutes the could dig out the skier in 2.25 meters depth.

The found him with the avalanche probe because his battery was empty.


50 to 70 cm of fresh snow in the last 36 hour additional lots of fresh slab snow.

Little to middle self releasing avalanches were possible at this day.

the man had lots of luck that he survived this accident.

Zamangspitze, Verwall, 01.01.2015,ca. 10:40 Uhr


Under clear view and best weather a 44 year old freerider and two colleagues climbed up the north ridge towards the Zermang Spitze. About an altitude of 80m below the peak he crossed as first one into the north-east-north face and intended to ski a face further south. His colleagues waited on a shoulder in safety. While crossing the 38 degree gully (steepest point) 50 meter over him a snow slab released. After noting that he was going to be carried away by the avalanche he triggered the avalanche airbag. By his own account he flashed over several times and blazed inter alia with his hip and his head against a rock. About 130 meters below the crack, the skier grind to a halt and he was buried up to his neck by the following masses of snow. His two colleagues and another skier standing at the height of his endpoint observed the avalanche and skied down to the buried person.

Together the were able to expose him and provided first aid.

The alerted rescue helicopter C8 salvaged him by rope and flew him to Bludenz state hospital.

Brief analysis: Several days of snowfall, snowdrifts, low temperatures characterized the weather conditions until New Year´s Day.This first beautiful and sunny day after a longer period of poor weather attracted many skiers into the powder snow slops. The snow cover of early winter with a lot of wind-drifted-snow, partly crusted interlayers and a weak binding was easily disturbed especially in this exposition and steepness. A bit of over motivation, many other skier in the area (Competitive thinking – we want to be the first one and the familiarity of the the area (Local: Already skied here) resulted in accordance to the accident victim that he fell into the trap.

Skiarea Brand – Gulma, Rätikon, 28.01.2015, ca. 13:40 Uhr


A local ski instructor toke the mountain railway uphill and observed thereby that 150 meters away from the top station of the Gulmabahn, beneath the avalanche barrier, an avalanche triggers in the forest area. As a result he informed „die Bergbahnen Brandnertal“. One could see, that a ski track lead both in and out the avalanche area. Because of the insecure starting position a safety seeking with negativ result took place. Other skier were not endangered by the avalanche. Around 200 meters from the close slope P9 (Lorenzital) the avalanche stopped. Emergency forces, who were involved in the safety seeking: two helicopters,  more members of the mountain rescue and the mountain railways with two dogs, more volunteers and alpine police.

Schröcken – Schmitte, Allgäuer Alpen, 28.01.2015,  09:45 Uhr


In the district of „Schmitte” a spontaneous snow slab released in the area “Obere Rud” that blockaded the municipal road “Schmitte” at a width of 30 meters and at an hight of 120 meters. The avalanche track finished at the edge of the munipial road L 200, but which was not buried. No persons and things were damaged by the avalanche. After searching through the road and and the blockaded area the safety seeking was cancelled.

The road was exposed by the mayor, the mountain secure Schröcken with seven men, a community worker and the police/alpin police.

Auenfelder Horn – freier Skiraum Warth, Lechquellen, 03.03.2015,  16:15 


At four o’clock pm an unknown skier climbed up from the mountain station Saloberkopf (skiing area Schröcken Warth) via west ridge towards Auenfelder Horn. At the end of the ridge the skier crossed the northern slope, which was covered with wind-drifted snow. After crossing the slope (150m) , it turned out as a layer of crusted snow, he recognized, that there was no deep snow in the slope. So he decided to turn around respectively to ski down back to the safe spot. During the run respectively the turnaround towards the west ridge he released a snow slab. This incident was observed by another person. From his position the person wasn`t able to see, if someone was caught by the snow slab. So the person reported the avalanche. As as result a search was started a 16:18. The search could be stopped at 16:50, because both the surface search, the LVS-search and the search of two avalanche dogs as well as the Recco search were without any result. Furthermore the ski track lead both in and out the avalanche.

Two helicopters, two dog handlers, the piste patrol, the ski school Warth, the mountain rescue Warth Schröcken Schoppernau as well as the alpine police and the police were involved in the action.

Brief analysis.

Because of heavy snowfalls on march the 3rd the critical amount of fresh snow was reached. Moreover strong winds with gale force winds lead to blowing snow and snowdrift. So the conditions were regionally unfavorable and the avalanche danger increased to four in higher altitudes.

With open eyes and and a bit of avalanche know-how the danger signs were well visible.

Sonnenkopf – Glattingrat, Verwall, 06.03.2015, 13:30 Uhr


 A Norwegian freerider well equipped with, transceiver, shovel and avalanche airbag skied down the ski route 14. He started at the mountain station Glattrinratbahn. After a crossing he left the ski route 14 he skied in free ski room area west of Glattringgrad. To reach little tracked area he continued his transverse about 400 meters and skied down the westside with a 37 degrees steepness. As a result he released a snow slab with his first turn and was carried away. He was able to trigger his avalanche airbag immediately so he “floated” downhill on  the snow. After 30m meters he stopped with the avalanche in the steep slop. After recovering from the scare and folding and providing his avalanche airbag, he was able to return not injured to the skiing area.

brief analysis: new snow and wind, with increasing altitude fresh drifts, older, covered, deep snow accumulations, partly weak bonds between the layers of old and new snow, increased susceptibility due to warming up and irradiation- this characterized the considerable avalanche danger in many places in higher altitudes on march the 6 th 2015. The catchment area above the transverse respectively above the regularly skied area is often ignored in heavily skied variants and in the judgement of the area. In adequate conditions for the fracture propagation – as on the 6th of march 2015) – even in these regions a releasement can be forced.

Avalanche accident, Gaislachkogel – Südliche. Ötztaler Alpen, 05.01.2015



The US-Skiteam trained in Sölden. During a break from training 6 team members decided to skied down from Gaisachkogel via partly extrem steep off piste area. At the beginning the followed already existing tracks. When all persons were in one of the steep slope a snow slab released. For persons were able to escape by going down.

Two young ski racers were carried away and buried three meter deep on the closed downhill run leading to Rettenbachtal. Due to the fact that the had no emergency equipment the tracking delayed and as a consequence of these the rescue. Both ski racers deceased at the scene of the accident.

brief analysis:

As already seen in the former accidents the time of little snow before christmas, crusts of rain, the snow profiles were equal in large parts of Tirol; always the same succession of thin crusts and loos crystals in ground-level layers. Cracks in the snow pack were the order of the day, relevant risks ground-level weak layers of early winter.

Avalanche , Pfaffenbichl – Tuxer Alpen, 07.01.2015


Two persons of the avalanche commission and employee of Bergbahnen Hochfügen intended to check the snow pack in close range to the skiing area below the Pfaffenbichl for stability.

For this purpose the went down the mountain station of 4er Hochfügen 2000 lift directly below an avalanche barrier. The went down the 60 degrees incline on a track chosen already by many off piste skiers. At the end of the barrier the left the track and climbed up because the snow cover there was untouched and because of that representative.

There they dug a snow profile and were about to perform a test of stability (Rutschblocktest). At that moment a snow slab released, which carried away both members of the avalanche commission. One was totally buried, the other one partly. A well equipped skier, who was accidentally present, hurried to the scene of accident and started after contacting the partly buried to search for his colleague. In a little while he could be located and dug out from a depth of 1 and half met by the skier and flown in helpers. Although the rescue was started immediately, the person deceased at the scene of accident.


the rocky steep slop below Pfaffenbichls is used regularly by off piste skiers.

the two alpine-policemen stand on that place, where the test of stability took place, january 1st 2015

During a survey of profile snow slab released an carried away both members of the avalanche commission

avalanche released:

Conditions in form of the succession of thin, hard and soft and loose layers were full filled

the location choice could be influenced to a large extend by the already existing extended crossing and the closeness of the avalanche barrier, a deceptive sense of safety, so the danger was underestimated sometimes.

Finally even the jam area of the avalanche in the range of a rock affected the burial depth negatively

relevant samples of danger

ground-base weak layers of the early winter

crossed. Because a rewarding downhill run into a bordering valley, from which you easily reach the bottom stations, lie ahead

the day, the accident happened, a wide track, extended by many off piste skiers, was on the slop. Even the commission members followed it. In respect of the snowpack the question rises, why the persons, who had crossed the slop days before, didn´t tigger the slope.