27 December 2019

Rescuers have dubbed the survival of a man a “Christmas miracle” after an avalanche in Austria buried him in snow for five hours.

Authorities were contacted shortly before 17:00 (16:00 GMT) on Christmas Day 2019 by a man who said the 26-year-old had not yet returned from skiing.

The man had managed to get through to the skier’s mobile phone but heard only “crackling noises”.

The missing skier was located a couple hours later.

He was found beneath a meter of snow with his avalanche transceiver, which pinpointed the man on Mt Pleschnitzzinken in the north-western area of Upper Styria.

Transceivers are worn on the body and emit an electromagnetic signal. They can also be used in search mode to pick up signals from other devices.

‘Extremely lucky’

A team from the Gröbming mountain rescue and local police dug the man out of the snow and he was taken down to the valley suffering from hypothermia but otherwise unharmed.

“You can’t move under the snow like this,” said Stefan Schröck of the Styria mountain rescue service. “The man was extremely lucky, he had a large enough air pocket under the blanket of snow, so he had oxygen and was able to breathe.”

Surviving for five hours under an avalanche happens only every 20 years in the Alps, according to Mr Schröck. If you are not found within 15 minutes of an avalanche your chances of survival are slim and if you are to survive beyond an hour you need a source of oxygen.

Skier brought out after five hours

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