It turns out it is an avalanche season in Austria and Switzerland right now, with avalanches occurring in Andermatt, Switzerland, and also in the Styria mountains of Austria. Fortunately, so far, so good, as all skiers involved in these avalanches survived the scary experience.

Austrian avalanche

As reported by 9 News, when the avalanche hit in Austria, a 26-year-old man was buried alive by the avalanche and only survived due to an air pocket in the surrounding snow. A man who was with the same party contacted the local police shortly before 5 PM local time on Christmas Day to say the 26-year-old was missing and hadn’t returned with the rest of the party.

The caller said he called the missing skier on his mobile phone, but could only hear “crackling sounds.”

Electronic avalanche transceiver to the rescue

Luckily the missing skier was wearing an electronic avalanche victim transceiver, which pinpointed him under one meter of snow on the slopes of Mt Pleschnitzzinken in the Upper Styrian mountains. The man was rescued two hours after the concerned man called, but spent five hours under the snow.

The large rescue team from the police and the Gröbming mountain rescue service dug the young skier from the snow and took him down into the valley after rescue dogs sniffed him out.

The skier was found to be suffering from hypothermia from being buried in the snow so long but otherwise was fine.

Stefan Schröck, one of the members of the rescue team, explained to the Austrian media that people are unable to move when buried under a blanket of snow as this man was. He continued by staying the skier was “extremely lucky” to be alive.

This was due to a relatively big pocket of air under the snow, allowing him to breathe until he was rescued five hours later.

Schröck said someone surviving for so long after an avalanche only occurs once every 20 years or so in the Alps. Normally, if the skier is not found within 15 minutes, their chances of survival are low.

To survive more than an hour, a supply of oxygen is needed.

This was not the only avalanche to hit Austria, as the Ankogel resort was hit three times on Thursday, with no lives lost.

Six skiers survive avalanche in Switzerland

Meanwhile, in the Swiss skiing resort of Andermatt, an avalanche hit within hours of the slope first being opened for the skiing season. The avalanche covering the slope in Andermatt was 200 ft in width and 984 ft long.

In that avalanche, four skiers were able to get free themselves, while a large team of rescuers managed to save a further two skiers.

After rescuing the two skiers, the rescue team continued checking the area for several hours to ensure no one was left behind under the snow.

As reported by the BBC, it is said that avalanches are rare on the marked ski slopes in that area.