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Tokyo — Two foreign men, including an American, were killed by an avalanche while backcountry skiing in a famous ski resort in central Japan, Japanese media reported Monday. Nagano Prefectural police said only that 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 showed no vital signs, the police confirmed.
Police declined to disclose the skiers’ nationalities and names, saying they were still being verified, but Japan’s TV Asahi said one was American and the other Austrian. Police were waiting until the men’s identities were confirmed before confirming even their deaths.
The “Mountain Gazette,” a specialist outdoor publication based in the U.S., said on its website that one of those killed by the avalanche was a professional American skier based in Lake Tahoe, but there was no confirmation from U.S. or Japanese authorities.
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.
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