The avalanche danger level has been moved up to the maximum level 5 in several provinces of northern Austria today after several days when safety services were thought likely to make the move.

Some ski areas in Austria, Eastern Switzerland, southern Germany and Slovakia have had 3 metres (10 feet) of snow in the past week and the amount of snow falling has intensified again.

The snow has also been falling accompanied by winds reaching at times 100kph in places, increasing the instability of the snow pack.

The Austrian regions where the danger level has been raised to level 5 (“extreme: black”) risk are Salzburgerland, Oberösterreich (Upper Austria) and Steiermark (Styria).

The description for this is: “The snowpack is generally weakly consolidated and largely unstable. Multiple, large, sometimes extremely large, spontaneous avalanches are to be expected, even in moderately steep terrain.”

St. Anton am Arlberg, Tyrol, Austria – 08.01.2018

To make a long story short… it's awesome in St. Anton am Arlberg. #stantonamarlberg

Gepostet von St. Anton am Arlberg am Dienstag, 8. Januar 2019

Most of Austria’s other leading ski regions including Tirol remain at level 4 (red) which suggests it’s likely that avalanches can be self-triggered skiing off piste.

The last Level 5 danger levels were about a year ago in parts of France and Switzerland after huge snowfalls there led to access road closures and people being advised to stay indoors for their own safety at some resorts.

Heavy snowfall

Conditions in ski areas in Austria and the wider affected region vary tremendously with some resorts, particularly high glacier areas, closed completely by the extreme conditions with others managing to open some safer terrain where skiers and boarders are enjoying the powder.

The small resort of Hochkar in Upper Austria made headlines on Monday when authorities decided to evacuate all residents and guests.