Germany raises avalanche alert after skiier deaths

Heavy snowfall in southern Germany and the deaths of skiers prompted authorities Sunday to raise the avalanche alert warning in the Bavarian Alps to the second-highest level.

Germany raises avalanche alert after skiier deaths
Rescue workers searched on Saturday for a woman who was buried by an avalance in the Teisenberg mountain range near Bavaria. Photo: DPA

The Bavarian avalanche warning service said it had boosted the alert level to four on a scale of five, warning of a “great danger of avalanches in the Bavarian Alps”.

A 20-year-old woman died Saturday after she was buried by an avalanche on the Teisenberg mountain range in Upper Bavaria, near the Austrian border.

Five other people in her ski group were unharmed.

In Wackersberg near Bad Tölz in Upper Bavaria, a 44-year-old skier was killed by falling branches on Sunday evening. The man was hit by a crown of trees that had broken off under the snow load, police said.

The man was immediately dead. According to police, he was travelling alone. Subsequent skiiers found him and alerted the emergency services.

On Sunday, two German skiers died in avalanches in the Austrian mountains. Both died in the western state of Vorarlberg, bordering Germany, the police reported

Meteorologists said they expected the region, already hit by days of heavy snow, to see a further 10 to 40 centimetres of snow by Monday.

A thick blanket of snow snarled rail and road traffic across the state of Bavaria over the weekend, while Munich airport was forced to cancel 130 flights on Saturday.

The situation at the airport eased on Sunday, with 15 flights scrapped by mid-afternoon and others facing minor delays, a spokeswoman told AFP.

Snow staying strong on Monday

By Monday morning there were several road closures throughout Bavaria due to the danger of avalanches. Throughout the German alps, the second highest avalanche warning level went into effect. Further snowfalls have been announced for the next few days.

There was heavy traffic by Siegsdorf on Sunday in Bavaria, where trees had fallen onto the road. Photo: DPA

During the night on Monday, up to 20 centimeters of fresh snow are possible in the Berchtesgadener Land district and up to five centimeters in the Allgäu, according to a meteorologist from the German weather service. He warned of avalanches and snow breaks like falling branches.

In several counties as well as in Lindau, classes were due to be cancelled at many schools on Monday. Authorities, fire brigades and auxiliaries were expected to try to get the public transport system up and running again during the day.

Due to trees that had fallen onto the overhead lines under the snow load, there were numerous transit breakdowns and closures over the weekend.


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What are the chances of a white Christmas in Austria this year?

Yes, it's a bit early for Christmas weather forecasts, but it hasn't stopped meteorologists making predictions. Here's what they have to say about the possibility of snow in Austria this Christmas.

What are the chances of a white Christmas in Austria this year?

In less than a month it will be Christmas Eve and the suspense is rising on whether there will be a white Christmas, especially at low altitudes, broadcaster ORF said.

The weather models do not yet reach that far, but ORF Vorarlberg meteorologist Thomas Rinderer has looked at the statistics in a bid to predict the snowfall this year.

FOR MEMBERS: Everything that changes in Austria in December 2022

On average, there is a white Christmas in Bregenz every three to six years. The last time was in 2011, so statistically speaking, a white Christmas in the Rhine Valley would be more than overdue.

However, the first long-term forecasts see a relatively mild winter overall, so it’s unlikely that an extremely cold winter is imminent. This follows the warmest October in Austria since records began although, according to ORF meteorologists, “surprises are still possible”.

READ ALSO: Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

This is because even in a mild winter there can still be a lot of snow. 

The Copernicus climate change service of the EU is predicting winter will be dry from France to Germany, but the Mediterranean area will be humid. This can lead to precipitation moving up from Italy into Austria where it’s likely to become snow.

Last year, some parts of Austria (especially in the west) enjoyed a white Christmas after a cold December and plenty of snowfall. This year, many regions in the Alps are already coated in snow although temperatures are set to rise next week.

We’ll keep you updated on the forecasts in the coming weeks.