Search for skier buried in Glencoe avalanche called off for night

The search for a skier who was buried in an avalanche near to Glencoe Ski Centre on Saturday has been called off for the night.

The man was skiing in an off-piste area behind Glencoe Ski Centre with his friend when the avalanche struck at about 1pm on Saturday.

Northern Constabulary oversaw a search-and-rescue operation for the missing man involving more than 30 members of Glencoe and Lochaber Mountain Rescue Teams assisted by Rescue 137 helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth.

Speaking on Saturday evening leader of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team John Grieve said the avalanche had travelled about 1000ft down the rocky face of the slope.

"The avalanche has actually gone into a gully, and in some places the snow is about 40ft deep," he said.

"Our guys have been out digging deep trenches and probing from there, as our poles are obviously not long enough to do it from the surface of the snow.

"The missing man is an extremely experienced skier. We have called off the search for tonight and will resume at first light tomorrow morning. We will continue looking until we find him."

Mr Grieve added that, given the circumstances, it was is unlikely the skier could have survived.

"It's not like a normal ski slope where it is mainly smooth and straight," he said. "There are a lot of rocks around and it is more dangerous."

The missing skier's friend is not thought to have been hurt in the incident.

"The missing man is an experienced skier who was off piste. He's set off a large avalanche and fallen about 1000ft. The avalanche has settled into a gully and we've been digging trenches a couple of metres deep to try and locate him but haven't so far."

A spokesman for the ski resort said: "Glencoe Mountain Resort regret to say that an experienced off-piste skier skiing outwith the ski area was caught in a major avalanche this afternoon. Mountain Rescue Teams and Glencoe Ski patrol have been on site for the last four hours."

Off-piste skiing, also referred to as "back country" skiing, involves the use of unofficial slopes which are not patrolled or maintained.

A forecast on the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service website on Friday placed Glencoe at "considerable risk" of an avalanche.

"The snowpack is moderately to poorly bonded on many steep slopes," it said.

"Triggering is possible, even from low additional loads, particularly on the indicated steep slopes. In some cases medium-sized, in isolated cases large-sized, natural avalanches are possible."

Mark Fulton, 25, from Gourock, Inverclyde, who was skiing all day with his family on the slopes at the Glencoe Ski Centre, said he saw the rescue mission unfolding.

"I was up there from about 10am and at lunchtime we went in to get something to eat at the cafe and we saw an emergency helicopter hovering about," he said.

"It looked as though it was coming in to land near the bottom of the hill. When we were leaving later I saw police and mountain rescue vans all gathered as well.

"I didn't actually know there had been an avalanche until I was driving home and heard it on the radio.

"It's just not something you think about when you're going out skiing, you never think something like that will happen to you — it's like when you get on a plane, you don't think it's going to crash.

"I just hope the person is found safe and well."

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