TOKYO -- Two foreign men hit by an avalanche while backcountry skiing were found without vital signs in a famous ski resort in central Japan, police said Monday.
Nagano Prefectural police said the two men were among five foreign skiers who were caught in an avalanche Sunday afternoon on the eastern slope of Mount Hakuba Norikura where the group was backcountry skiing. Rescuers reached the accident site Monday and recovered the two men, who were presumed dead.
Police declined to disclose the skiers’ nationalities and names, saying they are still being verified, but Japanese media reported that one was American and the other Austrian. Police are waiting until the men’s identities are confirmed before confirming their deaths.
Another party of eight foreign skiers, who saw the five engulfed in the avalanche while also skiing outside of the designated ski slope in the area, rushed over to dig them up. Three of the five survived — two uninjured and a third with a shoulder injury. They walked down with the other party, leaving behind the two who were already without vital signs when dug out, police said.
At Nozawa, another ski and hot springs resort elsewhere in the Nagano prefecture, rescuers found the body of a 38-year-old Japanese skier in the forest outside a designated ski slope where he went missing while backcountry skiing with a friend, police said.
An avalanche warning was issued for the area on Sunday following heavy snow since last week.