Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Skiing risks `still high'

OFFICIALS SAID yesterday that the threat of further avalanches in the Austrian Alps remains high through the weekend, with above-freezing temperatures warming the masses of snow hanging on mountainsides.

Vanessa Haines, information services manager at the Ski Club of Great Britain, says people should travel as planned but expect restricted skiing in certain areas. Because avalanche risks are still high skiers should contact their tour operator to check accessibility to their intended resort. If disruptions are likely, holidaymakers will have been contacted by their tour operator, according to Jackie Gibson of the Association of British Travel Agents. Ms Gibson said that of the 30 or so companies she spoke to yesterday, "without exception, where the booked resort is inaccessible, companies are offering holidays in alternative resorts or a full refund".

The main areas still experiencing problems are St Anton, Ischgl, Lech and Zurs in Austria and the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. The three main resorts, Murren, Wengen and Grindelwald, bore the brunt of the recent bad weather and are still cut off. Where the lifts and runs are open the skiing is said to be fantastic.

To put the disruption into perspective, Ms Gibson stressed that "out of 800 resorts in Austria, only 15 are experiencing problems, and well over 90 per cent are running as normal". Most other European ski destinations were getting back to normal, she added.

However, with more snow forecast for the middle of next week, the avalanche risk is still high and Ms Haines advises anyone considering off-piste skiing to hire an avalanche transceiver and take a qualified mountain guide with them. Transceivers can be hired for a week from the Ski Club of Great Britain (0181 410 2000) - pounds 10 members, pounds 20 non-members.