TERRIFYING footage shows the moment skiers are swallowed up by an avalanche in Switzerland.
The slope at the resort of Andermatt was packed when the avalanche struck at just before 11am and a desperate search is underway for holidaymakers buried under the snow.
Video shows a wall of snow engulfing the skiers as they frantically attempt to escape down the slope.
According to the Swiss paper Blick, the footage shows an off-piste skier being hunted by the authorities who may have triggered the avalanche.
“We are looking for this freerider,” said a Reno Pfister, state police spokesman in the Swiss canton of Uri.
Meanwhile the Austrian ski resort of Ankogel was hit by three avalanches and the authorities there say “a number” of people are missing.
The avalanche at Andermatt happened just before 11am on slope number 30 in the Oberalppass area, when the slopes were busy, according to witnesses.
A British skier, who asked not to be named, told the Evening Standard he had just skied down slope number 30 when snow from the avalanche hit the piste.
“It happened at a really busy time in the morning so there were lots of people on that slope – it could have been 100 people or ten people. It’s hard to know,” he said.
“There seemed to be quite a lot of people searching on the piste and they were digging for at least two or three people.”
He explained that skiers would unlikely be wearing avalanche gear and beacons on the slopes so rescuers were “digging and searching randomly”.
“No one knows what is going on but when I was there, we had just skied down to the bottom when the avalanche happened.
“We were literally on that piste two minutes earlier so we missed it by the skin of our teeth.”
So far, two people with minor injuries were pulled from the snow and taken to hospital, a Swiss police spokesman said.
There could be more people buried under the snow and a large rescue squad was carrying out the search with considerable resources, he said.
The avalanche is believed to have covered an area measuring 65ft by 164ft.
Danger for the area had been at level three on a scale of five, according to the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF), which said fresh and wind-drifted snow was the main threat.
In Austria, three avalanches came down in Ankogel in the province of Carinthia, an Austrian police spokesman said.
One happened outside the secured ski slope and buried two free riders who were able to free themselves.
More than 60 rescue workers, helicopters and dogs are searching for people who might have been buried under a major avalanche that came down directly on the slope, he said.
He added it was too early to say anything regarding potential fatalities.
The avalanche warning level had also been at three on a scale of five, according to Carinthia’s warning service.
It was too early to say anything regarding any potential deaths, the spokesman added.
Anne Jehn, director of Andermatt Ski Academy, was on the scene just after the avalanche hit and helped rescue a woman.
Speaking on Instagram she said: “She was ash grey. Shocked. But I guess she’ll be okay.”
According to the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, the area has an avalanche a danger level of three out of five.