Swiss and Italian Avalanches Kill Six

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Bolzano, Italy, Feb. 21 (AP)--Avalanches swept down Alpine slopes at the height of the ski season Monday, killing three skiers in Italy and three in Switzerland.

In Italy, back-to-back avalanches in the northern Venosta Valley trapped a group of seven Germans and one Italian skiing on an unauthorized route, alpine rescue official Luigi Weger said.

Searchers recovered the bodies of two women and one man and accounted for the remaining five skiers, Weger said. At least one was hospitalized with severe hypothermia. The valley is about 90 miles from the northern Italian city of Bolzano.

In Switzerland, police blamed an avalanche near the popular Davos ski resort on a German man and his son who skied into an area of deep snow despite avalanche warnings.

The two set off a snowslide that covered the father and two Swiss men skiing farther down the mountain on a prepared course, police said. Only the son survived.

Recent heavy snowfall followed by blue skies and sunshine Monday had prompted avalanche alerts in Switzerland and Italy.

In central Switzerland, an avalanche next to a children's ski area caught an adult and three children at the Lasenberg ski area near Erlenbach.

The adult and two of the children managed to climb out of the snow by themselves and pulled a 6-year-old girl to safety.

Italian schools are out this week for what is known as ``white week,'' freeing pupils for family ski trips.

Many Swiss youngsters also are given weeklong school vacations during the winter _ most frequently in February _ to go skiing.

In 1999, alpine avalanches killed 12 people in Italy and 36 in Switzerland, according to an Italian avalanche center.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press