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Avalanche traps backcountry skiers in Finnish Lapland

Two people were found half-buried in snow, suffering from cold but otherwise unharmed.

Kartta jossa näkyy Luoston sijainti.
Ukko-Luosto Fell (514 m) is in Sodankylä, just north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle
Yle News

An avalanche left two off-piste skiers trapped in Sodankylä, Finnish Lapland, on Wednesday.

According to the Lapland Rescue Department, the two freeriders were buried halfway in the snow, but did not apparently suffer any serious injuries.

"Both of their lower bodies were firmly stuck in the snow, but one of them was able to call for help. They were cold as they had been in the snowbank for at least an hour," Fire Chief Mika Hyvärinen said.

The accident took place on the south slope of Ukko-Luosto Fell.

Taking part in the operation were five rescue units, four snowmobile patrols and two helicopters. Hyvärinen said the skiers were taken to a first aid clinic by snowmobile.

"There's quite a lot of snow now and it's packed onto the steep areas, so the conditions are right for avalanches," he said.

Rescue services received the call shortly before 2pm.

Significant risk of avalanches in Pyhä-Luosto area

Snow safety instructor Ville Väkeväinen said that there have been several avalanches lately in the Luosto area. Skiers and snowboarders have been warned of the risk through social media campaigns and otherwise, he said.

Just over a week ago a skier was caught by an avalanche at Luosto but managed to escape without serious injury.

"I've actually been expecting something to happen, if I may say so. Considering the way people behave, this was inevitable," Väkeväinen told Yle.

"The snow depth in Lapland is now generally 50–60 cm. In Enontekiö [in the far northwest], it is up to 70 cm. The amount of snow has not increased in the past few days though," meteorologist Iiris Viljamaa of the Finnish Meteorological Institute said on Wednesday afternoon.

The Pyhä ski resort's avalanche forecast puts the risk of avalanches in the Pyhä-Luosto area at level three, meaning a significant risk.

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