Two skiers died in an avalanche that occurred early on Saturday in Valle d’Aosta region, northwest Italy, local media reported.
A third skier was able to escape the avalanche in time, Valle d’Aosta Mountain Rescue (SAV) official Paolo Comune told RAI News 24 public broadcaster.
“The two skiers were off-piste, meaning that they were in an area that had not been mapped or cleared for skiing,” Comune added.
Both victims were in their early 30s and one of them was a ski instructor, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
The avalanche detached from Mount Helbronner, which is a part of the Mont Blanc massif on the watershed between Italy and France, at an altitude of about 3,000 meters in an area that is popular with off-piste skiers, Aosta News 24 reported.
On Twitter, Aosta News 24 posted a video of a Mountain Rescue helicopter reaching the area where the avalanche occurred, on a sunny day with cloudless blue skies.
Regional officials had warned of the danger of avalanches on Saturday.
“The chief danger is the presence of slabs of snow above altitude of 2,000 meters, which can detach at the passage of even a single skier or excursionist,” according to the Valle d’Aosta region’s official website.
“The size and number of these slabs of snow increase with altitude,” explained the website.
The avalanche took place below the third and last stop on the SkyWay cableway, which is located at an altitude of 3,466 meters.
Inaugurated in 2015, the Skyway cableway has three stations: the first two are at an altitude of 1,300 meters and 2,173 meters, respectively.
Over 900 mountain rescue operations are carried out in the Valle d’Aosta region every year, reads the SAV website.