Skier missing near Switzerland’s Matterhorn after 5 others found dead amid deteriorating conditions

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A desperate search for a missing cross-country skier near Switzerland’s Matterhorn has been hampered by extreme weather conditions after five other skiers were found dead along a ridge over the weekend.

The six skiers, five of whom belonged to the same Swiss family, had set out in “relatively good” conditions on Saturday before the weather deteriorated, Christian Varone, commander of Valais regional police, told a news conference in Sion, Switzerland.

“Our priority is to find that sixth person,” Varone said. “As long as there is hope we will do all we can, but we have to be realistic about the conditions that person has lived through over the past 48 hours.”

The skiers were on a route between the resort town of Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn, and the village of Arolla, near the border with Italy. Another family member who was waiting for the group to arrive in Arolla on Saturday alerted police when they failed to show up before nightfall.

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Helicopters are pictured during a rescue operation after six touring skiers went missing in Evolene, Switzerland. (Police Cantonale Valaisanne/Handout via Reuters)

One skier contacted rescuers by phone, which allowed the team to pinpoint their location to an area near the Tête Blanche, or White Head, ridge at an elevation of about 11,500 feet, police said.

Helicopter and rescuers

Rescue teams recovered the bodies of five skiers and are searching for a sixth who is still missing. (Police Cantonale Valaisanne/Handout via Reuters)

A rescue squad of five experienced members set off immediately on Saturday but were forced to turn around within 500 yards of the group’s last reported position due to deteriorating conditions including avalanche, high wind, fog and cold, police said.

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Varone said that rescue teams have worked 24 hours a day “to try to achieve the impossible,” and were now “at the mercy of nature.”

map showing where five cross-country skiers were found dead

Christian Varone, commander of Valais regional police in Switzerland, speaks during a press conference as a map in the background shows the location where five cross-country skiers were found dead. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP)

The family of skiers were from the Valais region, while the sixth person lived in Fribourg in western Switzerland, Varone said.

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Officials did not specify which skier was still missing. No names or further details were provided except that the skiers’ ages ranged between 21 and 58.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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