5 Found Dead, 1 Unaccounted For After Desperate Search And Rescue

Authorities in Switzerland announced Monday that five people were found dead along an Alpine ridge.

They were cross-country skiers.

They had gone missing during the weekend, close to the world-famous Matterhorn. Another skier is still missing.

Six skiers headed out on Saturday in “relatively good” conditions, but the situation worsened quickly, according to Christian Varone, chief of Valais regional police, who spoke at a news conference in Sion, Switzerland.

Zermatt, a ski resort at the base of the Matterhorn, and Arolla, a village close to the Italian border, were the stops on their journey.

As the weather turned, dangerously low temperatures set in with an increased likelihood of avalanches.

On Sunday, despite the inclement weather, rescue officials announced a search.

The five skiers were from the Valais region, and one was from Fribourg, western Switzerland. Varone did not provide any names or any information beyond that they were between the ages of 21 and 58.

When the party didn’t show up in Arolla as planned on Saturday before dark, a relative of one of the individuals contacted the authorities.

One of the skiers could communicate with rescuers by phone, which led to their eventual discovery at the “Tête Blanche” (White Head) ridge, located at about 11,500 feet.

Search teams were quickly mobilized. But they had no choice but to reverse course. Hours later, authorities announced that bad weather—including an avalanche, strong winds, fog, and cold—had forced them to halt another search.

The whereabouts of the mountaineers were eventually determined by technical teams using mobile phone networks.

The five remains were located close to a cabin on the “Dent Blanche” peak, so a helicopter squad transported a team consisting of a doctor, a police officer, and two rescuers.

The specifics of their deaths are the subject of an ongoing inquiry, according to Swiss prosecutors.

Six mountaineers died in a week in 2023 from falls or rockslides in the same area.